Bullets from a .45 caliber pistol claimed the life of yet another journalist, the 74th since 1986 when democracy was supposedly restored in the country.
Eliseo “Ely” Binoya, station manager and commentator of the Manila Broadcasting Corp. affiliate Radyo Natin (Our Redio) in General Santos City in southern Philippines was shot dead June 17 by motorcycle-riding gunmen along the national highway. Binoya, who himself was riding a motorcycle, was apparently followed by the killers and shot four times. Two of them found their mark. He died on the spot.
Binoya is the 74th journalist slain since 1986 when press freedom was supposed to have been restored following the fall of the Marcos dictatorship. Of the number, 16 were killed under the three-year presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Including those killed during the Marcos years, Binoya was the 106th victim. The figures are based on data from the Philippine Movement for Press Freedom, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and Bulatlat.com.
The murder raised the ire of journalists, who described the incident as “unconscionable.” The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), a national organization of media practitioners, said the latest murder highlights the country’s “deteriorating press freedom situation.”
“The deterioration of press freedom reflects the deterioration of respect for human rights and civil liberties in the Philippines,” it said in a statement signed by Jose Torres Jr., head of the NUJP Committee for the Protection of Journalists, Carlos Conde, secretary-general, and Inday Espina-Varona, chairman.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international press freedom watchdog, said it is investigating whether the murder was related to Binoya’s journalistic work. It noted that no one has been prosecuted for any of the newsmen’s murders.
“The Philippines cannot claim to be a country that respects press freedom while journalists are killed with impunity,” Ann Cooper, CPJ executive director, was quoted as saying.
NUJP on the other hand said “the series of unsolved murders of journalists contributes to the climate of impunity against journalists, particularly in the provinces, where most of these attacks take place.”
NUJP noted other incidents between February and June this year:
*Wounding in an ambush of Cebu City broadcaster Cirse “Choy” Torralba of Angel Radio on June 8;
*Mauling of Melvin Mamis of the multi-media group Southern Tagalog Exposure on May 31 during a human rights fact-finding mission in Rosario town, Batangas. The perpetrators, who were members of the 20th Special Forces, tried to confiscate his video camera;
*Killing of Ruel Endrinal of DZRC in Legazpi City by two unidentified gunmen on Feb. 11;
*Grenade attack against Modesto Gutierrez, a radio commentator of DWSI in Santiago City, Isabela, on Feb. 13. Gutierrez survived the attack;
*Repeated closure of Bombo Radyo Isabela by Cauayan town Mayor Cesar Dy. The third and latest was a week ago, according to NUJP;
*Suspension of DWBL broadcaster Rolando Bartolome allegedly for his criticism of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo;
*Libel suit against a journalist in Ozamiz City who was simply covering a protest action;
*Filing of libel suit this month against several publications, among them Newsbreak and the Daily Tribune by the president’s husband, Miguel Arroyo;
*Denial by the Supreme Court of the request made by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism for copies of the justices’ statements of assets and liabilities. The court’s decision, according to NUJP, violates the public’s right to know;
*Threats by the government’s censor, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, to impose sanctions on television networks ABS-CBN and GMA-7 for airing materials on the marriage of lesbian couples.
Aside from CPJ, other international groups that have condemned the Philippines’s deteriorating press freedom record in the past include the International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Sans Frontieres, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House.