Filipino journalists are often murdered. This case is different. – The Christian Science Monitor | Team Cansler

The wheels of justice seem to be turning for the murdered radio journalist Percival Mabasa.

Within a month of the Oct. 3 shooting, investigators were targeting the country’s top prison officer – whose conspicuous lifestyle was the subject of a recent radio report – and several inmates believed to have been involved in the attack. On Tuesday, the Justice Department ordered subpoenas to be served on the suspects.

Why we wrote this

In a country where journalists are killed with impunity, the investigation into the murder of Percival Mabasa is making headway. Can she offer lessons in seeking justice?

The investigation is particularly notable given that the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked the Philippines seventh on a list of 11 countries with “the worst track record of solving murders of journalists.”

While friends and commentators say the quick response is more of an anomaly than a burgeoning trend, they see cause for hope. So far, Mr Mabasa’s case proves that when it’s up to the government to solve the murder of a journalist, the authorities can let it happen.

“Immediately after the news that Mabasa had been killed, media professionals, students and human rights activists rallied to denounce the killing and to put pressure on the government to hold the perpetrators accountable because we know that freedom of the press is not complete when it is.” Journalists are being killed,” says Jonathan de Santos, President of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

A case that would make headlines everywhere: on the way to the station, a popular radio presenter is shot dead by two motorcyclists. What follows is a dramatic investigation involving the country’s top prison officer, whose conspicuous lifestyle was the subject of a recent radio report.

But the fact that the wheels of justice appear to be turning for the murdered broadcast journalist Percival Mabasa, commonly known as Percy Lapid, is particularly newsworthy given the number of journalists killed with impunity in the Philippines. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranked the Philippines seventh on a list of 11 countries with “the worst track record of solving murders of journalists in the past decade.” The country has been on the organization’s Global Impunity Index for 15 consecutive years.

Within a month of the Oct. 3 shooting, investigators arrested Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag, along with Deputy Security Officer Ricardo Zulueta and several inmates believed to have been involved in the attack. Last week President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. urged the relevant authorities to move on “until we are satisfied” and the Attorney General challenged Mr Bantag to face his charges “like a man”. On Tuesday, the Justice Department ordered subpoenas to be served on the suspects.

Why we wrote this

In a country where journalists are killed with impunity, the investigation into the murder of Percival Mabasa is making headway. Can she offer lessons in seeking justice?

While friends and commentators say the quick response is more of an anomaly than a burgeoning trend, they see cause for hope. So far, Mr Mabasa’s case proves that when it’s up to the government to solve a journalist’s murder, the authorities can let it be done.

“While we applaud the development of this case, we know for sure that it came at a time when a new President is making every effort to present himself as a leader committed to human rights,” said Carlos Conde, a senior researcher in the Asia division of Human Rights Watch. “If Marcos Jr. didn’t mention the Mabasa case, it gets brushed aside.”

Filipinos light candles for Percival Mabasa, better known as Percy Lapid, during a rally in Quezon City, the Philippines October 4, 2022. Jason Gutierrez, president of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines and a personal friend of the Mabasa family, says the fight for justice for Mr Mabasa is “far from over”.

Mr Mabasa is one of three journalists killed since President Marcos took office in July. Radio station Rey Blanco was stabbed to death on September 18 in Mabinay, a town in Negros Oriental province. Benharl Kahil, an editorial cartoonist, was shot dead on November 5 in Lebak, in the southern Philippine province of Sultan Kudarat. Both cases are still under investigation and the perpetrators have not been identified.

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