UNA: Press freedom in danger under Duterte

ANGELES CITY -- The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) has warned that the leadership of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will put journalists and press freedom in danger.

According to Reporters Without Borders or RSF, the global score of the Philippines in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index fell 3.47 points from last year’s 41.19.

UNA spokesperson and former broadcaster Mon Ilagan expressed fear on the dangers that will be posed to the media by a Duterte presidency.

“Our journalists are being attacked left and right. Will we put them in even more danger by choosing a leadership that will suppress press freedom?” asked Ilagan.

“It is frightening to imagine the media under a leader who promises a bloody cleansing under his rule but only prey on the poor, the helpless, and those who dare to speak against him. He has admitted to being the Davao Death Squad—a glaring danger sign that the people must heed,” he said.

UNA standard-bearer Vice-President Jejomar Binay has earlier assured the National Press Club (NPC) that his administration would prioritize the resolution of cases of media killings in the country and ensure that the media are protected.

The NPC has earlier challenged the presidential candidates to state their agenda for the media and media killings.

The Vice-President said he will create an independent commission to investigate the summary executions perpetrated by the notorious Davao Death Squad (DDS), tagged by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other human rights groups for the killing of thousands of civilians including minors.

The independent commission would be composed of former Supreme Court justices, human rights groups, the NPC, and the Commission on Human Rights.

“A Binay administration will defend the freedom of the press. He witnessed the suppression of press freedom and the harassment of journalists as a human rights lawyer during martial law. Naniniwala po siyang importante ang mga mamamahayag sa isang demokrasya at bilang presidente, sisiguruhin po niya na mapoprotektahan ng estado ang media,” Ilagan said.

Binay has also taken to task Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for the unresolved murders of three journalists, suspected to have been the work of the feared Davao Death Squad (DDS).

Broadcaster Juan “Jun” Pala was killed in September 2003. Rene Galope, who was critical of Dutere’s management style, was killed in November 2004.

Radioman Fernando “Ferdie” Lintuan was ambushed and shot dead on Christmas eve in 2007, after exposing the alleged misuse of public funds in the construction of the Davao Peoples’ Park.

Matakot po sana tayo sa dugong sinasabi ni Mayor Duterte na dadanak sa kaniyang pamumuno. Maaaring kasama dito ang buhay ng mga mamamahayag na naglakas-loob na ihayag ang mga iregularidad sa kaniyang pamumuno,” Ilagan said.

“We cannot have a president with blood on his hands. What we need is a leadership that will be unifying, will help the poor that are often suspected of crimes, and will protect our journalists. Tapusin na natin ang panahon ng karahasan at takot. Huwag nating pabayaan na pati ang patlalathala ng katotohanan ay pigilan ng isang walang pusong pamumuno,” he added.

Paris-based RSF said media killings remain the main danger, noting that many journalists in the country “carry guns and know how to use them because they are in constant danger.”

“Often committed by private militias in order to silence reporters who are investigating them, these murders usually go unpunished. In this climate of terror, media outlets succumb to self-censorship or corruption, in which journalists receive “favors” in exchange for positive coverage,” the RSF said in its notes on the Philippines.

“Paradoxically, the national media are fairly free and diversified and do not hesitate to criticize President Begnino Aquino III’s administration” while the internet “is not subject to any control,” it added.

The Philippines has been put in the world map as one of the most dangerous places for journalists.

According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, 170 media workers have been killed in the country since 1986.

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