THE Human Rights Watch has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to deliver on his promises to apprehend those responsible for the recent killings of journalists in Mindanao.
In a weekend statement, HRW also expressed its frustration over a lack of action by task force on media killings since it was created on Oct. 11.
“The murders last week of two radio journalists, and the attack on a newspaper columnist, highlight the need for the Duterte administration to deliver on promises to apprehend those responsible for the killings of journalists,” HRW on Asia Division researcher Carlos Conde said.
“It’s not just suspected drug users and dealers at risk of targeted killing in the Philippines,” Conde added.
Since 1986, 177 journalists and media workers have been killed in the Philippines, making the country one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism, according to the Committee to Project Journalists.
On Aug. 6, two assailants on a motorcycle shot dead Rudy Alicaway, 46, a radio host on local DXPD.
Alicaway was on his way home in Molave town, Zamboanga del Sur when assailants shot him.
He survived the first volley of gunfire, but the gunmen reportedly got off their motorcycle followed him as he tried to crawl to safety and fatally shot him.
Police officials said they do not yet know the motive in Alicaway’s killing, also a local councilman.
On Aug. 7, two gunmen killed Leodoro Diaz in President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao.
Diaz, 60, was a long-time columnist for a local weekly and a reporter for Radio Mindanao Network.
He had told colleagues earlier in the day that he was going to file a report on illegal drugs, but it was unclear whether his reporting was the motive for his killing.
On Aug. 10, a gunman in Batangas City shot Crisenciano Ibon, 65, on the back and seriously wounded his driver.
Ibon was a columnist for the tabloid Police Files Tonight. He survived the attack, which policemen speculate may have been in retaliation for his columns criticizing illegal gambling.
The deaths of Alicaway and Diaz brought to four the number of journalists killed since Duterte took office in June 2016.
Other journalists killed under Duterte’s regime were Larry Que, killed on Dec. 19, and Joaquin Briones on March 13.
On Oct. 11, Duterte signed an administrative order, under the leadership of a former journalist Joel Egco, creating a task force on media killings.
“Since then there is little evidence that the task force has actively pursued attacks on journalists,” Conde said.
He said the previous administration also launched similar task forces on media killings, but “all failed to end impunity for those deaths.”
Despite assurance that journalists are “safer” now, HRW said Duterte’s task force will suffer the same fate so long as the administration actively endorses extrajudicial killings.
“Without accountability for killings of journalists, media freedom in the Philippines will remain under threat,” Conde said.