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RP is already on list on “Worst Places to be a Journalist” March 31, 2005

Posted by s511 in Uncategorized.
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We condemn in the most horrified and saddened terms the killing of crusader and journalist Marlene Esperat whose exposes earned her a death warrant from a yet unidentified gunman last Thursday. This latest case of a journalist slain in line with the work they do again shows that government has been remiss in its duties to ensure and protect press freedom. The least government could have done was provide Esperat with adequate support, and was obliged to act on complaints against corrupt and inefficient officials.

These killings, of which the cold-blooded murder of Esperat is only the latest, are unforgivable in a country in which freedom of the press is a constitutionally guaranteed right. From a rights perspective, the killing of journalists constitute a patent violation of the right to information, and an attack not just on the individual, but against society and the rule of law.

It seems the lack of transparency and accountability in government is now being measured through the number of journalists being killed and silenced to cover the tracks of wrong doers.

It was only in November of last year when photographer Gene Boyd Lumawag was shot to death in Sulu, and the following day, a radio station manager in Aklan was also shot to death and a third case was reported in Quezon City. On February 28, mediaman Arnulfo Villanueva was also found dead in Naic. To be a journalist in the Philippines is to have a bull’s eye on one’s head all the time.

We vow that through the House Committee on Human Rights, an investigation into the series of media killings and harassments in recent months will be launched and will be given top priority.

We will look into what policy interventions can be done to help address this culture of violence being perpetrated against journalists.

We have to eradicate the lack of transparency and accountability in government at all levels, which is the only way genuine freedom of the press can be truly exercised without fear neither favor of anyone. A Freedom of Information Act, as proposed in House Bill 3580, may be a start. This bill imposes a general duty to disclose to make available and accessible to the public and the media records including contracts, transactions, decisions, research data and official writings related to the performance of public duties. Sec. 27 of the said bill also provides for protection to whistleblowers.

We are also looking into how we can improve and maximize the Witness Protection Program to enable credible and poor witnesses to come forward and help solve crimes.

But most of all, government must demonstrate a sincere resolve to seek out and punish those who believe their position and power allows them to get away with the murder of journalists everywhere.

It has been reported that since the restoration of democracy in 1986, more than a hundred cases of violence perpetrated against journalists have been tallied, but we are yet to ascertain just how many have been resolved or resulted in the conviction and incarceration of perpetrators. The Committee to Protect Journalists say that 8 journalists were killed in the country in 2004 alone, making the Philippines second only to war-torn Iraq in terms of numbers of journalists being killed because of the work they do.

Rep. Loretta Ann P. Rosales
AKBAYAN Party-List

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On the Bicutan Bloodbath March 17, 2005

Posted by s511 in Uncategorized.
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The swift and decisive action of the police and government on the standoff at the Camp Bagong Diwa jail in Bicutan would have been laudable had it not been for the fact that at its wake 23 people were left dead from the assault magnifying the horror of the killing of three jail guards and 2 suspected ASG members yesterday.

Contrary to Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye’s statement that the crisis is over, the incident raises serious questions that still have to be answered. First of all, did the negotiations bog down to an unsalvageable level that the use of force was the only option left for the government forces? Was the force used necessary, given that out of the dozen or so hostage-takers, less than 10 were supposedly armed?

The incident bears no imprint of maximum restraint being used to the highest extent possible to minimize the loss of lives. It seems this bloodbath seeks to cover up authorities’ failure to heed intelligence reports of a planned jailbreak.

From conversations with DILG Secretary Reyes we get the sense that the direction was to teach them a lesson, in which case it must be stated that these inmates, no matter how unimpeachable the evidence may have been against them, are still to be convicted of the crimes they are charged with by a competent court of law. Only four, the ringleaders, were confirmed ASG members. The rest were still suspects awaiting trial.

It seems that it was not clear to the police that the idea should have been to isolate those responsible for the armed outbreak, and which ones of the prisoners were innocent of participating in the jailbreak.

I would suggest that the Commission on Human Rights step in immediately and take a second look at this bloody mess and ascertain whether the police acted within the reasonable bounds of the law in the ensuing assault that brought an end to the hostage-taking in Camp Bagong Diwa.

Should proof of human rights violations be established, the PNP will have to answer for the swift justice of violence it employed against these suspected Abu Sayyaf members. Otherwise it will only convince the public that this operation, touted as a “success” by Malacañang, only proves that the government is just as ruthless in its pursuit of the enemy it seeks to defeat. And that in itself will not win the war against terrorism.

Continuing slaughter in Hacienda Luisita must be stopped, perpetrators brought to justice March 15, 2005

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AKBAYAN Party-List Representative Loretta Ann Rosales today expressed disgust over reports that a priest had been slain in Tarlac. Rosales appealed to Malacañang to step in and ensure the continued safety of activists in the region.

“Obviously, the Hacienda Luisita problem is far from being resolved,” said Rosales “and it is incumbent upon the authorities to help pacify the situation through a resolute investigation and finding the perpetrators of these killings,” she added.

The lady solon also said that the killing of Fr. William Tadena, as well as those of Councilor Abel Ladera and Marcelino Beltran sends a strong signal about the human rights situation in Tarlac, and measures have to be taken in order to maintain peace and order in the region.

“We would be very interested to know what government has done to resolve the ongoing labor dispute in Hacienda Luisita, as this is being pointed as the root of all these killings, Rosales explained. “For as long as that dispute is left hanging in the air, discontent will continue to brew in Tarlac, and we might see more people falling prey to violent elements who want to sow terror and division as means of addressing the Hacienda Luisita question,” Rosales warned.