NUJP condemns murder of TV host

NUJP – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemned Monday the murder of a former minister of the Iglesia ni Cristo religious sect and TV host in Pampanga on Sunday.

NUJP President Jose Torres urged police to investigate the murder of Marcos Balais Mataro, 40, host of the UNTV program “X-Man.”

Torres said Mataro is the 2nd local mediaman to be killed this year and the 56th since Gloria Arroyo became president in 2001. He said Mataro’s murder could be linked to his work as a TV host for the Ang Dating Daan sect.

Mataro, a former INC minister,  was waiting for a Manila-bound bus at 10:30 a.m. at the North Luzon Expressway toll gate in San Simon, Pampanga when two men riding tandem on a motorcycle shot him.

Police later recovered the getaway vehicle (DY 4524) near the area. They said Mataro has a pending attempted homicide case before the Apalit Municipal

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Adonis, other journalists challenge Philippine libel laws before UN

DAVAO CITY — Backing up the case of jailed Davao broadcaster Alexander Adonis, journalist groups questioned the country’s libel laws before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, saying that jailing a journalist for libel is a violation of the country’s treaty obligation to promote freedom of expression.

Adonis, former anchorman of Bombo radio-Davao jailed for libel, filed the communication addressed to the UN High Commission on Human Rights, challenging the legality of the criminal libel laws in the Philippines, arguing that criminal libel violates treaty obligations to promote freedom of expression.

“We’re filing the case, not only in the name of Adonis but also in the name of all media people in the Philippines and in the name of press freedom in the whole world,” said Lawyer Harry Roque, Adonis’ legal counsel and the chair of the lawyer’s advocacy group Center for International Law (CenterLaw), which assisted in the filing of the motion.

Aside from Adonis, the signatory of the complaint included the press freedom group Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP).

Represented by his brother Colly Adonis, the Davao broadcaster filed the electronic motion to the UN at 11:35 a.m. Friday, only hours after he attended a pre-trial hearing of another libel suit filed against him by Davao TV personality Jeanette Lomanta Leuterio in relation to the same Burlesque King scandal that earned him his conviction.

Adonis has already spent over a year inside the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) prison after a Davao court convicted him of four and a half years for libel early last year.

The libel case was filed by Davao first district Congressman Prospero Nograles after Adonis ran a series of commentaries dubbed as the “Burlesque King,” where according to Court proceedings, Adonis identified Nograles as the man running naked in a Manila hotel after he was caught by his paramour’s husband inside a hotel room.

The UN case was the first to be filed in Asia, questioning the country’s libel laws as inconsistent to its treaty obligations to uphold press freedom under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Roque, however, clarified that the filing of the case in the UN was only taken as the last resort, after Congress failed to pass the law to decriminalized libel.

“Considering that the present Speaker of the House is the same man that filed the case that convicted Adonis, we need to explore other options and tap all available international remedies,” Roque said.

He also filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 17 a motion to reopen the case filed by Nograles against Adonis to invoke a Supreme Court circular calling on all judges to impose fines rather than mete out jail terms to newsmen convicted for libel.

Earlier, Adonis showed up at the Regional Trial Court Branch 14 to face charges on a second libel complaint filed by the woman allegedly caught in bed with Nograles.

Handcuffed and wearing a blue inmates uniform, a gaunt Adonis sat side by side with suspects of cell phone snatching and killings, listening as the court deliberated on his case.

Roque had sought dismissal of Lomanta’s complaint on the basis of the Supreme Court ruling discouraging the lower courts from imposing jail terms for libel.

He argued that Adonis’s imprisonment “defeats” the country’s Constitutionally-enshrined rights to freedom of expression and that there is no reason for the state to continue prosecuting Adonis because he has already been serving time in jail.

But state prosecutor Victoriano M. Bello Jr. inhibited himself from giving a decision, effectively moving the case to another pre-trial on May 26.

The revival of Lomanta’s complaint came at the time when Adonis could have qualified to seek parole, having spent his six-month minimum term in jail. Lomanta’s case cited the same circumstances that convicted Adonis. Its arraignment came six years after the case was filed. (Germelina Lacorte/Cheryll Fiel/davaotoday.com)

Grieving for Press Freedom

NUJP Statement :

Today, we lay to rest the first journalist slain in 2008 and the 56th under the Arroyo administration. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines joins the family, friends and colleagues of newspaper publisher and columnist Benefredo Acabal in mourning the murder of another member of the Philippine media.

Acabal published the tabloid Pilipino Newsmen and wrote a column under the name Freddie Yanco. Before putting up his own paper two years ago, he wrote for other tabloids, among them Toro, Saksi and Puntos. His murder orphaned four children, aged four to nine years old.

Acabal was brazenly chased and gunned down by a lone gunman in front of eyewitnesses in Pasig on April 7. While police investigations have yet to conclude if Acabal’s murder was related to his work, his friends and colleagues strongly believed it was. Acabal reportedly received several threats prior to his death.

The manner of his killing, in the heart of Metro Manila no less, highlights the level of impunity the murder of journalists and activists in this country has reached, and why the death toll under the Arroyo government – which long ago had already established itself as the highest under any administration, including the 14-year Marcos dictatorship – continues to rise.

While we recognize that there is no indication that the murder of journalists is part of official policy – unlike what international human rights experts have observed about the extra-judicial killings of dissenters – we contend that lack of official action on the slayings of our colleagues and the government’s repeated attempts to muzzle the press have emboldened those who would seek to exercise the ultimate censorship.

For so long as this administration fails to arrest, prosecute and convict the murderers, for so long as it persists to threaten us with laws designed to curtail the exercise of our calling, the blood of our colleagues will stain this government as much as it does the actual killers and masterminds.

We call on the public, our audiences and readers, to stand up with us to demand respect and protection for press freedom and the people’s right to know. Whatever the imperfections of the Philippine press are, it continues to serve as a crucial vehicle for the people to get the information they need to make informed decisions about their individual and collective lives.

As we prepare to commemorate World Press Freedom Day next month – commemorate, not celebrate – we once again declare, we will not be cowed.

References:

Joe Torres Jr., chairperson

Rowena Paraan, secretary-general

IFJ Calls for Investigation into Killing of Filipino Journalist



The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the killing of Filipino newspaper columnist Benefredo Acabal and called for an investigation into his murder.

“The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “This is the first killing there this year but it is the 56th journalist killed murdered under the administration of President Gloria Arroyo. Her government must take a clear role in ending the violence against journalists.”

A gunman on a motorcycle shot Acabal dead in Manila on Monday night as he walked to a friend’s house, according to reports. Acabal was a columnist and publisher of the Cavite-based newspaper Pilipino Newsmen.

The IFJ called on authorities to conduct a full investigation into the killing to find the motive and bring the killer to justice.

Six journalists were killed in the Philippines in 2007, though in at least one case it is not clear if the killing was work-related. The Philippines has been one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in recent years. In 2006, at least 13 journalists and other media workers were killed there and 10 were killed there in 2005.

As a result of this violence the IFJ in cooperation with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines established a safety office to assist local media.

“Journalists in the Philippines face many pressures ranging from legal charges to criminal threats and this has seriously affected their ability to report safely and independently,” White said. “Our colleagues have continued to work despite these attacks and we will do everything we can to support them.”

For more information contact the IFJ at + 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide

An Absolute Privilege


by Nepomuceno Malaluan

FORMER socioeconomic planning secretary Romulo Neri scored a legal
victory when the Supreme Court said the Senate could not compel him to
answer three questions that it found to be covered by executive
privilege. But transparency advocates say the public may end up the
loser should that decision become final.

A commentary by lawyer Nepomuceno Malaluan argues that the March 25,
2008 ruling makes the presidential communications privilege
practically absolute, thereby denying the public access to information
that may have profound impact on governance and legislation, among
other things. Analyzing how the majority of the justices arrived at
their conclusion, he also says it seems there were some facts
presented in the case that were not considered or evaluated,
especially those pertaining to the Senate’s need for the answers to
help it craft legislation.

Malaluan questions as well with the Court’s determination that the
questions asked of Neri lean more toward the exercise of the
legislative oversight function. He notes, “Unfortunately, while there
may be instances when an inquiry is undertaken solely in oversight,
more often the oversight character of an inquiry is inextricable from
a legislative purpose.”

“It is by being factually informed of the actual workings or
administration of existing laws, or of the ways by which wrongdoing
such as corruption is committed, that intelligent legislation may be
had, whether through the amendment of existing laws or the enactment
of new ones,” Malaluan writes. “It is because of the reality of this
inter-linkage that the Court itself, in Senate v. Ermita, recognized
the validity of facilitating oversight through compulsory process when
such oversight is performed in pursuit of legislation.”

We hope the piece will help enlighten readers on the wider
implications of the Supreme Court decision on the Neri case.

Provincial publisher killed

CMFR/Philippines— An individual onboard a motorcycle gunned down a newspaper publisher at around 10:15 pm (local time) on 7 April 2008 night in Pasig City in the Philippines. Pasig is one of the cities that make up the National Capital Region, where the country’s capital, Manila, is located.

Benefredo Acabal, 34, the publisher and a columnist of the Cavite-based paper Pilipino Newsmen, was shot by a gunman onboard a motorcycle along Amang Rodriguez Avenue corner Greenpark Village, Manggahan, Pasig City. Cavite is a province south of Manila.

A certain Army Staff Sergeant Antonio Ramos Raynilo reportedly brought Acbal to the Rizal Medical Center for treatment. Acbal however was dead on arrival due to multiple gunshot wounds.

Raynilo did not give any statement.

“Reluctant magsalita iyong staff sergeant. Basta hinatid niya lang yung biktima at ayaw magbigay ng address (The staff sergeant was reluctant to speak and refused to give his address. He just rushed the victim to the hospital),” Police Officer Lardy Ignacio told the online news site gmanews.tv.

Police later recovered five empty 9mm shells from the crime scene.

The marketing supervisor of Pilipino Newsmen, who refused identification, said that the publication started only this year, and has had only four issues. He said that prior to Acabal’s work for Pilipino Newsmen, the latter worked as a columnist for the national tabloid Bomba (Bomb) where he wrote political commentaries.

Police have not established the motive behind Acbal’s killing, said Major Henry Libay, a member of the secretariat of the Philippine National Police’s Task Force Usig. Libay also said that the police are reluctant to classify Acbal as a journalist since the latter’s wife did not identify the slain publisher as a journalist. Task Force Usig is tasked to investigate cases of extrajudicial and journalists’ killings.

The police, however, have not ruled out the possibility that the killing was related to Acabal’s work as a journalist.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility has listed 70 journalists/ media practitioners killed in the line of duty since 1986. Thirty-three of the 70 were killed during the present Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration.

Concern for Journalist After Phone Threats in Philippines

NUJP – The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is extremely concerned for the safety of a Palawan journalist who received death threats on his cellular phone on April 4.

According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an IFJ affiliate, a correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Redempto Anda, fears for his life after receiving two threatening text messages from another cell phone.


The first message to Anda, who is also chairperson of the NUJP’s Palawan chapter, read, “Watch your back you have been tempting the gods! Don’t even think they will take it kindly that you are on a personal crusade against the KAPITAN.”


This was immediately followed by the message, “Be kind to an animal? Yes we will, through mercy killing! Goodluck.”


Anda told the NUJP that the only controversial report he had written recently was published on April 1. It detailed a mining company’s alleged moves to prevent the Philippines President from declaring Mt Mantalingajan a protected area.

The company is owned by business magnate Lucio Tan, who is widely known as “El Kapitan”.

“Intimidation tactics of this kind are a direct interference in the duty of journalists to report fair and balanced information to the public without fear of being harmed,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

“It is unacceptable that the safety of journalists, who are the guardians of free expression and press freedom for all people in the Philippines, is put at risk for exposing alleged corruption.”


The IFJ joins the NUJP in calling on the Government to uphold its responsibility to create a safe environment for journalists so that they can continue their professional duties and to send a clear message that threats and harassment of journalists will not be tolerated.


For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries