The Philippine media have lost another of their own
At around 5:30 a.m. of Monday, February 23, 2009, Misamis Occidental broadcaster Ernie Rollin became the first journalist in the country murdered this year, the 99th since the supposed restoration of democratic institutions in 1986 and the 63rd since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001.
A report from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in Ozamiz City said Rollin was parking his motorcycle at a gasoline station in Oroquieta City before commuting to work in Ozamiz City when two men on a motorcycle, their faces hidden by ski masks, drove up and shot him several times.
The report quoted Rollin’s partner, Ligaya, who was waiting for him to join her at a waiting shed, said she hear three gunshots and, when she looked at where the shots had come from, saw the broadcaster lying face down on the ground.
When Ligaya rushed over to help Rollin, one of the gunmen stopped her and pumped another bullet into the nape of the fallen journalist.
Colleagues said Rollin, who was in his mid-40s, was known for his hard hitting commentaries.
This, and the cold-blooded deliberation with which he was murdered, leave no doubt as to why he was singled out for the ultimate censorship – death.
The continued murder of journalists, the boldness with which these killings are carried out, and the failure to bring justice to all but a handful of these cases, belie government’s claims that we live in a
A truly democratic government would move heaven and earth to make sure that these murders are solved and the perpetrators – both killers and masterminds – arrested, prosecuted, convicted and punished. A truly democratic government would move heaven and earth to ensure the free
exchange of information and opinion, without which a people can never be truly free to shape their individual and collective lives.
What we have is a government that has not only greeted the continued deaths of journalists with inaction and even apathy, but one that has, in fact, albeit vainly, tried to muzzle the free Philippine press.
There can be no greater irony than the timing of Rollin’s murder. He was killed on the 23rd anniversary of the EDSA People Power I uprising that supposedly restored the people’s basic freedoms including of expression. It is also the anniversary of the eve of the declaration of a state of national emergency, when the government attempted to muzzle the press wholesale, which the Philippine media successfully opposed.
It is to the credit of the independent Philippine media that these continued attacks have not deterred them from fulfilling their obligation to bring information to the people.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines calls on our colleagues to stand firm and united in the face of these continuing threats.
Let us also band together and demand an accounting from government for its failure to fulfill its mandate to protect and defend our rights, not only as media, but as citizens.
Nestor P. Burgos
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