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Many Filipinos are proud of the freedom the press enjoys in their country. And, indeed, the Philippine press may well be termed one of the freest in East Asia. But a series of killings of journalists has tarnished the rosy picture. With 13 Filipino journalists killed last year and four media workers murdered so far in 2005, the Philippines–according to the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)–has become the second most deadly place for journalists in the world after war-torn Iraq.– Ronald Meinardus.
Meinardus captures acurately the state of the Philippine press. Our Constitution guarantees every Filipino’s right to expression and information. But that right  exists mostly in words. Reality is different in the country where critics of government and the powerful get harassed, threatened, and even killed.

Three motorcycle riding men all in helmets that covered their faces, shot broadcaster Fernando “Kapid” Gabio outside his residence at Jaro, Iloilo City early morning March 2.

The assassins shot him three times hitting him on the leg. He survived. The terror sowed in the community, the trauma suffered by the victim and his family, and the cost of medical intervention are enough to rage against the culture of impunity; attackers are emboldened because they always get away and government we entrusted to secure us is itself inutile in stopping them, or in arresting and prosecuting them.

Or worse, some of its highly placed officials including the armed forces and the police are themselves the perpetrators.

Silencing journalists  in the Philippines, the world’s riskiest place for media people after war-torn Iraq, is an attack not only on members of the press alone.  The loss of one reporter shatters press freedom which is the right of the people to be informed or seek redress through the media which they found reliable in stopping official abuse.

“Confronted with what they perceive as a wave of targeted killings, Philippine journalists are infuriated. Publishing obituaries and fuming commentaries has become a sad routine for newspaper editors and TV producers after every new killing of a colleague. The angry commentaries sound like cries of desperation for they have little practical impact,” notes Meinardus.

“While the mere fact that journalists are put to death violently–often in broad daylight–is an outrage, the scandal does not stop there. Equally shocking is the fact that none of the murders have been solved in the sense that the perpetrators have been convicted and shut behind bars.”

At any rate, we join our colleagues in screaming to the heavens our outrage in the assassination attempt on the life of Kapid Gabio. The attack should bolster our commitment to keep our people informed on the goings on in their community and government offices.

This near-tragic incident may be saddening and it  may frighten people to inaction.  Kapid is one reporter who I regard as a grizzled warrior, in Ilonggo press lingo, one who eats threats during breakfast, lunch and supper.

This challenges us again to transcend  the culture of helplessness and inaction that the attackers and their paymaster intend to instill in the public mind to perpetuate their untouchability or privileged but  shadowy activities.

August 22, 2011, blocktime broadcaster Neil “Lito” JImena was gunned down in Victorias City, Negros Occidental. Police investigators eyed drug angle behind it but the victim’s family blamed only to personal vendetta to be behind it. His brother and children pointed to Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick  Mabilog as mastermind, an accusation that Mabilog flatly denied.

Jimena used to lambast Mabilog in the airtime “Mr. Expose” over RMN together with Kapid Gabio and Roy Cejar.

The blocktime folded up last year that somehow knocked Kapid Gaqbio off air. He went back on air in January 2012 though in the block time sponsored by a group of city officials and this time around, he went soft on Mabilog and the city government.

Get well soon, Kapid. Like Dracula, the coward who bankrolled the operation against you, fears the sun whose rays may expose the dark side of you-know-who.


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