Dec. 20, 2013

BUGKOS Media Action Group

The media organizations under BUGKOS Media Action Group strongly condemn the killing of broadcaster Rogelio ‘Tata’ Butalid of Tagum City, and we join the insistent call for justice for all victims of media killings in our country. We demand no less than the most decisive state intervention to end the senseless murder of journalists and the blatant mockery of our nation’s democracy and justice system.

Rogelio “Tata” Butalid, a block-timer for 107.9 FM Radyo Natin and a mediaman all throughout his career, was not a criminal or an enemy of the state, or an ordinary civilian.

Yet, his killing, the manner by which he died, and the circumstances surrounding his death, showed that he died in the line of duty. He used the power of broadcast media to freely express his opinions, things that mattered a lot to his listeners and to the general public.

His killers simply want to silence him and declare that freedom of expression comes with a price in our country. The masterminds of his murder shamelessly made our justice system and law enforcement merely charades in our national and societal fabric.

Indeed, the freedom of expression—our much cherished constitutional right—has become more of an illusion in our country rather than a reality. It is an illusion because the state, the Philippine government has simply not done enough to ensure that such right is always held in the highest esteem. It is an illusion because, in our society today, only the very rich and the very powerful few wield control over the flow of information and the traffic of communication.

We are aghast that this very government attempts to justify the killings by saying that some of the victims are not bona fide media or that not all killings may be related to journalistic work. Pres. Aquino is not as emphatic enough when making pronouncement or reacting over media killings. He is unperturbed with the more than 20 murdered journalists during his administration. He is not swayed with the fact that this number could even surpass the number of media victims in the gruesome Ampatuan massacre.

The lives of media in our country are so cheap that we are sitting ducks, vulnerable to the displeasure of the rich and powerful elite whose dominance in our country’s economy and politics is often threatened by media criticism.

Tata Butalid’s death sends us a clear message that the Aquino administration is not one step closer in ending media killings, but rather, geared toward silencing the media and attacking press freedom.

Butalid’s murder occurs under the continuing exoneration of media killers in our country, and this has created a chilling effect to the media in Tagum City, hampering their work for fear of reprisal from the authorities.

Thus, we believe that the formation of Task Force Butalid is simply not enough. We expect results not just for the killers to languish in jail but most importantly, for the masterminds behind the killings to be held responsible.

The trackrecord of the police, the local fiscal and the Department of Justice towards media killings is dismal.  If we look at the 23 cases so far involving media killings in the last 40 months, only four are in the trial stage, 12 have no charges filed against anyone yet, while the remaining seven are still being determined for probable cause at the level of the fiscal or at the Department of Justice.

Thus, we cannot expect justice could be had by merely leaving it to the police or to a task force to do its job. They are not doing enough. They have not done enough.  Bugkos Media calls on Pres. Aquino to bring the culprit behind bars and to punish the enemies of press freedom. We urge the Aquino administration to take decisive actions in resolving the spate of media killings in the country.

Bugkos Media also calls on all media practitioners to start our solidarity with media victims and drumbeat the demand for genuine press freedom and human rights.  Tata Butalid’s death is a jolting reminder for us media to work harder, and struggle to remain firm in the practice of our profession and, ultimately, in the service of our people.

We must act now!

Members of the Bugkos Media Action Group

, , , ,
comments powered by Disqus