MANILA, Philippines – President Arroyo met yesterday law enforcement officials and representatives of media organizations at an emergency meeting in Malacañang that came up with fresh measures to prevent more attacks on journalists.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said authorities were anticipating more attacks against journalists as the election season approaches. Mrs. Arroyo also donated P2 million to the Freedom Fund of Journalists to help families of slain newsmen.
Among those who attended the meeting were Butch Canoy, head of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), Jose Pavia of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), and Nonoy Espina of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).
Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor, who is head of Task Force 211, and Philippine National Police (PNP) Director Raul Bacalzo, chief of Task Force Usig, also attended the meeting. Both groups are in charge of investigating unexplained and media killings.
The President ordered the Philippine National Police and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno to offer rewards for 27 fugitive suspects in the killings of media workers.
She ordered Bacalzo to circulate posters with the photographs of the suspects nationwide and form dedicated teams to track down the killers.
The parties also agreed during the meeting that the definition of “solved cases” would be applied only when a suspect is arrested or convicted. News organizations and the PNP have previously been at odds over the definition of solved cases, which has led to differences in figures.
“Before, a case is considered solved if we have already filed a case in court, regardless of whether a suspect is arrested or not. Now, we will only consider a case of media killing solved if a suspect has been arrested or convicted,” Bacalzo said.
He said at least 61 media practitioners were killed from 2001 to 2009. Espina said since 1986, 100 journalists in the country have been killed. The 100th victim was Ernest Rollin of Oroquieta City who was gunned down last Feb. 23.
The 84 suspects include four policemen, two soldiers, two mayors, New People’s Army rebels, and civilians. Thirty-four have already been arrested or neutralized while the rest are still at large, he said.
Blancaflor said his task force would exert more effort to stop media killings but sought more cooperation from journalists.
“When you kill a journalist, you kill an idea, you kill freedom of expression,” he said.
He and Balcazo said that in their experiences the cases that were solved were due to cooperation by members of the media.
“We would like to strengthen that partnership,” Bacalzo said.
Espina and Canoy thanked Mrs. Arroyo for the meeting and promised closer cooperation with authorities.- Paolo Romero, Philippine Star