Arroyo orders PNP: Stop media killings

Published by rudy Date posted on March 27, 2009

CPJ report, threats to broadcaster spur action

MANILA, Philippines—Heavily criticized over a number of unresolved political killings since she came to power, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Thursday gave an explicit order to the Philippine National Police: Stop the killing of journalists.

Specifically, the President ordered Police Director Jesus Verzosa to protect Davao broadcaster Elgin Damasco, who had received death threats for linking the military to the murder of a communist insurgent’s daughter.

“We must bring political killings to zero, including assassinations of government officials and media personalities,” she said in a speech before the 2009 graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy in Silang town, Cavite province.

The order came just days after the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists placed the Philippines on a list of countries where media personnel are allegedly killed with impunity.

Text messages

Damasco, news director for Radio Mindanao Network’s dxDC station in Davao City, reported receiving a series of threatening text messages during his “Tinuod nga Balita [The Real News]” program.

He told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility that the threats could have come from the military as he had exposed military abuses in Davao. The military has denied this.

Damasco and his colleagues at RMN previously reported that the Army was linked to the abduction and murder of the daughter of Leoncio Pitao, also known as Commander Parago of the communist New People’s Army.

Pitao’s daughter, Rebelyn Pitao, was abducted and found dead earlier this month in a Davao del Norte town.

“This morning, I talked to General Versoza, and I said that Davao broadcaster Elgin Damasco should be offered police protection and the text [messages] threatening him should be investigated,” the President said in her speech.

Rare opportunity

She reminded the newly commissioned police, jail and fire inspectors that their toughest challenge was keeping the public safe.

“Our people have given you the rare opportunity to develop your rare potential. Go now and give back what you received by keeping the people safe,” she said.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging a guerrilla insurgency for 40 years, funded by extorting money from local businesses and politicians.

A 2007 report by the top UN expert on extrajudicial killings found that the military was in a “state of denial,” after the Army said many deaths were the result of internal purges in the communist ranks. –TJ Burgonio with Agence France-Presse, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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