This week alone, two broadcasters were murdered, further reinforcing the Philippines’ reputation as one of the five most dangerous countries for media workers.
In Tagum, Davao del Norte, Gregorio Ybaaez was entering his house Tuesday night when a car pulled up and someone opened fire. Ybaaez, publisher of the local weekly Kabuhayan News Services and president of the provincial media club, died the next day in a hospital.
On Thursday in Sorsogon, Teodoro Escanilla, who hosted a radio show on dzMS, was entertaining a guest at his home when two men arrived and sprayed him with bullets. Escanilla died at the scene.
All the gunmen are at large. Police are still investigating whether the killings were related to journalism. Ybaaez was a director of the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative, where two factions are reportedly engaged in a bitter squabble. Escanilla, meanwhile, was also the provincial spokesman for the left-leaning human rights group Karapatan and chairman of the local chapter of party list Anakpawis.
Whether or not the murders were related to their work as broadcasters, authorities must get the killers. International groups count 77 media workers murdered in the Philippines since 1992 in attacks confirmed to be linked to their work. In the first 40 months alone of the Aquino administration, 23 journalists were shot dead.
Worse, many of the murders go unpunished. Last year the country ranked third after Iraq and Somalia, ahead even of conflict-torn Syria, in the Impunity Index drawn up by the Committee to Protect Journalists. The ranking was due not only to the high number of fatalities but also to the failure to solve many of the murders.
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Deadly attacks against left-wing militants also continue, with state forces suspected in several of the killings. Escanilla was a left-leaning activist with a radio show. Going by the profiles of previous murder victims, he was a prime target for execution.
Human rights advocates had high expectations that the only son of Benigno Jr. and Corazon Aquino would be able to do more to stop unexplained killings. President Aquino has a few more months to reduce the impunity.