The Philippines ranked fifth in the world in terms of impunity when it comes to killings of journalists, the 2017 Global Impunity Index of the Committee to Protect Journalists showed.
In its report titled as "Getting Away with Murder: 2017 Global Impunity Index" which was published on October 31, the Philippines moved down from its No. 3 rank in 2016, saying that "no convictions have been achieved" despite the formation of a task force on media killings.
President Rodrigo Duterte in October 2016 signed his first administrative order creating the Presidential Task Force on Media Security to look into violations of the right to life, liberty, and security of the members of the press.
The presidential task force is expected to have an inventory of all cases of violence against the press perpetrated by state and non-state forces.
"The commission has announced investigations into several murders, but no convictions have been achieved. Meanwhile, two people including a former policeman claimed Duterte ordered the killing of radio broadcaster Jun Pala in 2003, when Duterte was mayor of Davao City. Duterte has denied any connection to the crime," CPJ said.
CPJ was referring to retired Senior Police Officer 3 Arthur Lascañas who confessed that he was hired by Duterte, through the latter’s trusted aide Senior Police Officer 4 Sonny Buenaventura, to assassinate Pala.
Pala, a broadcaster of Davao-based radio dxGO and a critic of Duterte, was killed on September 6, 2003.
CPJ said the Philippines has 42 unsolved cases "with complete impunity" in the past decade, adding that local journalists outside the capital covering politics, corruption, business and crime are mostly targeted.
"There has been one murder since the previous index, the March 2017 shooting of reporter Joaquin Briones. Justice has not advanced for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre victims, among them 32 journalists and media workers," CPJ said.
"Three (out of dozens) of suspects were acquitted in July this year on grounds of insufficient evidence. The regional appeals court also upheld petitions for bail by Datu Sajid, a principal court," it added.
CPJ also cited in its report the killing of tabloid reporter Rubylita Garcia who was shot dead by armed men outside her home in Bacoor, Cavite.
"Garcia had worked to expose the wrongdoing in the Cavite province police force. A senior police officer was named by the justice department as the main suspect, but no one has been prosecuted," it added.
CPJ's top 12 countries in terms of impunity against journalists are the following:
- South Sudan
The New York-based group is an independent, nonprofit organization that calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country's population. It examined unsolved journalist murders that occurred from September 1, 2007 until August 31, 2017.
The Philippines has been repeatedly included in the list but was only dropped for the first time in eight years in 2015. —KG/KBK, GMA News