“This case once again proves that the culture of impunity persists.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Despite clear video footages showing the faces of a convicted drug lord, his son, and a village councilor as among those who attacked radio station Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo almost three months ago, the local police and government officials seem to be dragging their feet in resolving the case.
This was the sentiment of John Paul Tia, station manager of Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, at the public hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs on Feb. 2. Tia played the CCTV footages of the Nov. 19, 2015 incident, which showed how more than 20 alleged members of a local drug syndicate, armed with handguns, attempted to enter the Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo station.
Tia lamented that only three of the suspects have so far been charged with grave threat, qualified theft and trespassing. He said the police have identified five more suspects, but supplemental complaints
have yet to be filed.
“What troubles us is the seemingly lackadaisical treatment of local government officials and police authorities (against the suspects),” Tia told Senators Grace Poe and Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.
Tia said Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog’s association with alleged drug lords Melvin Odicta Sr. and Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa is “alarming.”
Iloilo City Councilor Plaridel Nava identified the men on the CCTV footage as Odicta Sr., his son Melvin Jr. and Espinosa, a local councilor of Monica-Blumentritt village. Odicta Sr. was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1993.
“Why is he (Odicta) roaming around Iloilo City carrying firearms?” Sotto asked.
Assistant State Prosecutor Jinky Dedumo said she has yet to get some facts about the case.
Poe said that based on government records, Odicta Sr. was never granted any parole but was released in 1995, after a Muntinlupa judge issued a writ habeas corpus in his favor.
Tia revealed further that there has been a series of “assaults” on the radio station for their reports on the proliferation of illegal drugs in the province.
On Dec. 10, 2013, Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo reporter, Jonavin Villalba, was shot and wounded by two men who attacked him outside his house.
On August 25, 2015, members of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) raided the station of Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo on the pretext of going after alleged gang members. Without serving any search warrant, members of the SWAT team searched the announcers’ booth, the technicians’ room, the news center, the recording room, the reportorial department and the pantry, including personnel lockers. The SWAT team also forced six radio station crew and a security guard to take off their shirts.
In separate incidents last year, attackers threw human waste, rotten eggs and fish at the radio station.
Speaking as one of the resource persons, Fred Villareal, deputy secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), said the Iloilo incident is “an attack on press freedom.”
Villareal said the case is just one of the many unresolved cases of attacks against journalists. “This case once again proves that the culture of impunity persists.”
Recently, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) declared the Philippines as the second most dangerous place for journalists with 146 killings over the past 25 years.
Poe implored authorities to take immediate action on the case and ensure the protection of Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo journalists.