68 | MEDIA TIMES 2013 • Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility

BY PAUL DAWNSON M. FORMARAN
He was more than his dead body, like all the
journalists who have died before him.
“That’s him,” his common-law wife
confirmed. But it was no longer him,
lying there in a coffin.
The people sitting on a narrow
bench and the people passing
through or standing beside the
coffin barely fit the alley where
they held the funeral. His
mother was sitting at the
other end, mourning her
third child who had died
before her.
AGAINST THE PRESS*
BY THE NUMBERS:
*As of October 2013
ATTACKS &
Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility • 2013 MEDIA TIMES | 69
“I told him to stop it with the tabloid business,” his mother said
in a hushed voice.
Bonifacio Loreto Jr. must have known it was coming. He had
received death threats like the others. His family was fearful but
he went on anyway.
Loreto had just come out with the ϐirst issue of Aksyon Ngayon, a
tabloid he published and wrote for as a columnist. Like many other
tabloids in the country, the ϐirst issue devoted the bulk of its four
pages to police crime stories, jueteng, rape and other sexual offences.
The paper opened its pages during the campaign period of the 2013
mid-term elections. Like many designed to win votes for this or
that candidate, it would probably have closed after the election. But
Loreto would not live long enough to release his second issue.
The story is typical. Many tabloids have the short life tied to
the campaign funds fueling the election. Such tabloids are seen
as petty partisan rags which in the ϐield of electoral competition
are enough of a threat to some parties, provoking fatal attacks
from those they cross.
Loreto is just one of the eight Filipino journalists and
media workers killed for their work this year. Several more
were attacked and threatened as victims of the violence that
contaminates local politics.
REPORTED INCIDENTS
66
As of October this year, there were
66 reported incidents of attacks and
threats against journalists and media
workers in 2013 while there were
39 reported incidents in 2012, when
there was no elections. This count does
not include the killing of journalists.
Attacks and threats happen in various ways. Not all incidents
rise from the heat of elections. Some involve actions as “simple”
as reporters’ being barred from covering the canvassing of votes
during elections, while some were as alarming as a blocktimer’s
home being shot at twice, after he was arrested for libel without
a warrant and without a case being ϐiled.
“Blocktimers” are broadcasters who buy blocks of time from
radio stations or cable TV channels to air their programs. They
usually pay for the “blocktime” through sponsors, some of
whom are politicians, some advertisers.
& THREATS
70 | MEDIA TIMES 2013 • Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility
The bulk of these incidents happened in Metro Manila, where
practitioners have long been thought to be immune from such attacks.
Fifteen incidents were reported of journalists attacked and threatened
in the capital region, an area regarded as safer than the provinces.
Nine incidents happened in the Bicol Region (Region V) and
eight in Central Luzon (Region III). Ten of the 17 incidents of
attacks and threats in these two regions involved radio workers.
Nine occurred while covering this year’s elections.
AGAINST RADIO WORKERS
32
Of the total 66 incidents during the year, 32 were
against radio workers. Nineteen of these 32
incidents were election-related. This trend seems
to reϐlect a ϐinding of a study by the Asian Institute
of Management (AIM) Policy Center on political dynasties.
The AIM Policy Center study released in March found a relationship
between political dynasties and the number of AM radio stations.
Where the political dynasty held less positions in local government,
there were more AM radio stations operating, reϐlecting greater level
of competition among political forces in the province. Where there are
“fat” dynasties, there is less radio, less competing voices in the media.
In a blog post from the Philippine Center for Investigative
Journalism (PCIJ), AIM Policy Center executive director, Professor
Ronald Mendoza, deϐined a “fat” dynasty as “one that has been able to
expand across several elective positions simultaneously. For example,
a political family may have, at any one time, a member in Congress, in
the provincial capitol, in the municipal halls, and in the town councils.”
Mendoza identiϐies the presence of a critical radio broadcasting as
a factor that prevents a political dynasty from expanding, allowing
other newer, political dynasties to compete. “(The political dynasties
can’t expand) it seems, according to the results we are seeing,”
Mendoza was quoted as saying in the PCIJ blog post. “Media are
leveling the playing ϐield by providing information.”
The impact of radio stations on politics should be analyzed more
to establish a connection to the level of violence against journalists.
2013 ELECTIONS
25
The elections held in May this year account for the
increase from last year’s in the number of attacks and
threats against journalists and media workers. Of this
year’s incidents, 25 were election-related. Reporters
were prevented from helping ensure clean and transparent elections.
The number of election-related attacks and threats this year
is bigger than the total number of alerts from the last two
election years combined. In 2007, the Center for Media Freedom
& Responsibility (CMFR) reported only nine election-related
incidents and only ϐive in 2010.
This drastic increase could be due to journalists’ and media
workers’ being more aware that they have to report press freedom
violations that they witness or experience, even in the face of danger
and the culture of impunity that protects perpetrators of violations.
On the eve of the May 13 elections, the crew of the TV news
program Ronda Balita in Ozamis City, northern Mindanao, was trying
to catch a rumored mass vote-buying activity at a seaside village. But
the convoy of then-mayoralty candidate Rolando Romero stopped
them. Romero and his security aides also destroyed the news crew’s
equipment when the producer tried to interview him. Not content,
Romero allegedly tried to shoot at one cameraman. But when his
pistol misϐired, the group mauled the media worker instead. The
politician’s ally later said Romero had only “defended himself.”
After election-day, Commission on Elections (COMELEC) ofϐicials
barred reporters from the canvassing of votes in the provinces
of Northern Samar in the Visayas and Aurora in Southern Luzon.
Election ofϐicials in both provinces asked reporters for their COMELEC
accreditations. But the reporters were still barred even when they
complied. When the reporters complained, COMELEC chairman Sixto
Brillantes Jr. advised them to ϐile a complaint with the police.
CRIMINAL LIBEL CHARGES
11
Libel charges also present a danger to journalists
and media workers reporting campaigns and
elections. There were 11 cases of libel in 2013.
Four libel suits were ϐiled this year against radio
anchors and commentators for their coverage of the local elections
in their areas. But libel is a constant threat. Five more were ϐiled
against other journalists and media workers for their coverage
of corruption and other illegal activities. There were also two
journalists convicted this year for libel complaints ϐiled years ago.
Philippine law criminalizes libel, imposing a ϐine, up to six years
imprisonment, or both, on those found guilty. It has been used to
threaten, restrain and harass journalists and media workers.
Libel on World Press Freedom Day
On May 3, Friday, right on World Press Freedom Day, Police Director
Supt. Reynaldo Maclang barged into a radio booth in Dipolog City,
Zamboanga del Norte, and arrested blocktimer Rodolfo “Maxbans”
Tanquis for libel, without a complaint ϐiled or even an arrest warrant.
Tanquis was detained until a libel case was ϐiled against him on
a Saturday. Curiously, the Ofϐice of the City Prosecutor was open on
a weekend. Rodolfo posted PHP10,000 bail and went into hiding.
CMFR’s Appeal
On May 6, CMFR wrote the Secretary of Interior and Local
Government, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, urging him to take the
necessary action against the police director’s warrantless arrest
of the blocktimer. Roxas sent a reply dated May 9 saying he had
“asked Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General (DG) Alan
Purisima to cause an exhaustive, fair and objective investigation of
the incident by an independent fact-ϐinding team.”
BY THE NUMBERS: ATTACKS AND THREATS AGAINST THE PRESS
Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility • 2013 MEDIA TIMES | 71
In a separate letter, 18 members of the global free expression
network IFEX urged President Benigno Aquino III to “ϐile the
necessary charges against Maclang.” The President, through his
executive secretary replied on May 17 saying “steps have already
been taken by the Department of Interior and Local Government
(DILG) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to address the concerns.”
DILG’s assurances and the media freedom advocates’ pleas
went sadly unheeded. Tanquis’ enemies weren’t through with
him. On May 31, unidentiϐied individuals ϐired gunshots at his
house and the radio station where he worked. Tanquis was not
at home when it happened, but his family was. No one was hurt.
Just ϐive days later, on June 5, his house was ϐired at again.
Dangerous Precedent
However, the response from the Ofϐice of the City Prosecutor in
Dipolog City was contrary to both the prompt promises from the
DILG and the President. In a reply to the copy of the appeal sent
by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression to the DOJ Action
Center, the Dipolog City prosecutor argued that the warrantless
arrest of the blocktimer for libel was valid under the Philippine’s
Rules of Criminal Procedure.
“The arrest without warrant. . .was validly made as (Tanquis)
was caught in ϐlagrante (caught while committing the crime) by
Supt. Reynaldo Maclang. . .probable cause exist (sic) to indict
(Tanquis) for the crime of Libel and he is probably guilty thereof,
hence, an information for Libel was ϐiled against him now
pending trial,” the City Prosecutor’s letter said.
Asked to comment, Prima Quinsayas, legal counsel for the
Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists Inc. (FFFJ), said that
the City Prosecutor’s interpretation of the law “borders on the
absurd and, if left unchallenged, may set a dangerous precedent”
implying that the arresting ofϐicer could bypass the investigative
prosecutor or judge in deϐining what libel is.
In July, Tanquis told CMFR that his lawyer, Reinaldo Ramas, had ϐiled
a motion for the criminal charge to be dropped. The City Prosecutor
asked for 15 days to review the motion. In September, Ramas told
CMFR that the motion was denied. The trial for libel will push through.
For Conducting an Interview
As libel charges weighed down on Tanquis, another radio broadcaster
in the next province was also being sued for libel. This time, it was not
for statements deemed libelous by the complainants. A mere interview
conducted on his program had caused Lito Pedrano a libel suit.
Radio anchor Lito Pedrano sent a message to CMFR via
Facebook last June asking for help. Zamboanga del Sur governor
Antonio Cerilles had ϐiled a libel complaint against an election
opponent, implicating Pedrano for “using his (Pedrano’s) radio
program in airing (my opponent’s) libelous remarks.”
In April 17, Pedrano had interviewed then mayoralty candidate
Ruel “Balong” Molina, Cerilles’ opponent, about the ambush
killing of Molina’s 22-year old niece on April 16.
In the transcript of the interview attached to the subpoena
as evidence, Molina alleged that Cerilles and Cerilles’ wife,
former Zambaonga del Sur governor and now congresswoman
Aurora Enerio-Cerilles, had “without doubt” the motive to
carry out the ambush.
“I said we should wait for the results of the investigation (on
the ambush) and that we are open for Cerilles to air his side.
Cerilles’ staff said they would address Molina’s allegations
through their own radio stations and blocktime programs,”
Pedrano told CMFR last June 25.
He scrambled to get a lawyer to help write the counter-afϐidavit
that he needed to ϐile 15 days after he was served the complaint.
Otherwise, he would have had to concede to the facts presented
in the governor’s libel complaint.
Pedrano was able to submit the counter-afϐidavit after being
granted an extension from the Pagadian City prosecutor. But he
still did not have a lawyer to defend him if the case goes to trial.
THE KILLINGS
8
If journalists were not silenced with criminal libel
complaints, they were being silenced with guns. Ten
journalists and media workers were killed this year, eight
in the line of duty. This brings the total of work-related
media killings in the Philippines to 137 since 1986. In the three-
year administration of Benigno S. Aquino III, 19 have been killed.
The modus operandi in the eight killings is almost always the
same; a gunman riding tandem on an unlicensed motorcycle.
There are exceptions, one assailant was on foot and in another
case, there were two gunmen.
Edgardo “Egay” Adajar
Edgardo “Egay” Adajar anchored a government-supported
blocktime radio program in San Pablo City, Laguna. He was also
a city councilor. He was supposed to run again for ofϐice this last
election but he was murdered right at the beginning of the year.
On January 2, Adajar and his bodyguard, Leonardo Ronaldo, were
shot in front of a cockpit in the village of Concepcion. They were
walking back to their vehicle when they were attacked. The gunman
escaped on an unregistered motorcycle with a companion.
Adajar and Ronaldo were brought to a hospital nearby. Adajar, with
a gunshot wound in the head and right thigh, was dead on arrival.
Ronaldo, who also sustained a gunshot wound in the head, died later
without providing any information on the identity of the killer.
Adajar, according to his colleagues and the police, regularly
criticized various people on radio, among them his political
opponents; individuals alleged to be involved in illegal gambling
(or misuse of funds sourced from the small-town lottery); and
allegedly corrupt policemen involved in the illegal-drug trade.
On Dec. 29, 2012, Adajar reported a death threat to the police,
when then mayoralty candidate Hizon Arago allegedly threatened
Adajar while both were attending a seminar.
Cartographic sketches of the gunman and his accomplice have
been distributed. PHP800,000 was offered to anyone who can
provide information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators. But
no one has been arrested to date.
FFFJ was founded in 2003 to assist in the prosecution of the
killers of journalists and to provide humanitarian assistance
to the families of slain journalists and media workers. It is
composed of CMFR, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas
(KBP), PCIJ, and the Philippine Press Institute. CMFR serves as
its technical and administrative secretariat.
72 | MEDIA TIMES 2013 • Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility
Miguelito “Mike” Rueras
Miguelito “Mike” Rueras reported for a Cebu radio station from
Pio V. Corpuz, a partly Cebuano-speaking town in Masbate. But
he stopped during the elections to support and volunteer for a
gubernatorial candidate.
On June 2, Sunday morning, Rueras was shot dead in his store.
He was with a friend who happened to be a police ofϐicer a few
moments before the shooting. But the policeman left for a while
to secure people leaving a nearby church.
Rueras’s family recalled that unidentiϐied men had been
looking for Rueras three days before the killing, Senior Inspector
Rodel Arevalo told CMFR, but the family thought they were just
friends of Rueras.
In August, the police told CMFR that the suspected gunman
had been found murdered in the nearby town of Esperanza. A
witness identiϐied the suspect only by looking at a photo of the
suspect’s corpse.
Bonifacio Loreto Jr. & Richard Kho
Bonifacio Loreto Jr. and Richard Kho were columnists for Aksyon
Ngayon, a tabloid that had had only one issue. Loreto, who had
other businesses and was relatively new in the media, was also
its publisher. According to Loreto’s common-law wife, Nora, the
men were already planning to rent an ofϐice and to release a
second issue.
Late at night on July 31, Loreto and Kho were standing in front
of Loreto’s small store in Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.
They were with Loreto’s store aide when two men on a motorcycle
shot them. In TV interviews, the store aide said he survived the
shooting by pretending to be dead. He has since gone back to the
province, his location unknown according to Nora.
The police initially said that the killing was probably not
related to the victims’ work. But Nora, as well as Loreto’s mother,
insisted that if Loreto had just heeded their warning not to get
involved in the media, he would still be alive.
CMFR has yet to contact Kho’s family. But in TV interviews,
Kho’s daughter, Richelle, also said that the murder was work-
related.
On August 13, the police ϐiled charges against Clemente Bersoza
and Roel Manaog for the murder. Witnesses identiϐied the suspects,
police said, after going through the mug ϐiles of people with criminal
records. Senior police ofϐicer Pascual Fabreag, case investigator, told
CMFR last August 16 that the police have yet to establish the motive
for the killing since the suspects have not been apprehended.
Mario Sy
Mario Sy was a freelance photographer and photojournalist
in General Santos City, South Cotabato. He contributed to the
tabloid newspaper Sapol News Bulletin.
On August 1, less than 48 hours after the last media killing, Sy,
who was watching TV, was shot dead inside his home, in front of his
teenage daughter. The gunman left the scene and walked away.
Sy’s family and colleagues believe Sy was killed because he was
vocal against the proliferation of illegal drugs in his community.
Sapol’s publisher John Paul Jubelag told CMFR on August 2
that Sy had contributed a photo report of a drug-related killing
sometime in January or February this year.
Sy is the second Sapol contributor and the fourth tabloid
newspaper worker to be killed in General Santos City since 2010.
Fernando “Nanding” Solijon
Fernando “Nanding” Solijon was a radio commentator in Iligan
City, Lanao del Norte. He hosted the program Sandiganan, which
aired weekday mornings on a local FM station.
In Solijon’s broadcast on August 29, which aired several hours
before he was killed, a caller cursed Solijon on air. Solijon also
read on air a death threat sent to him via text, according to his
technician. The text message read, “Your cofϐin’s already made.”
Later that day, at around 10:30 p.m., Solijon was shot dead. He
was about to head home after some beer and dinner with colleagues
when two men riding a motorcycle gunned him down. One of the
gunmen threatened to shoot a colleague who tried to interfere.
“It was really work-related,” case investigator Senior Police
Ofϐicer Melvin Denore told CMFR one day after the killing. “He
was a famous commentator talking about politics. That’s not a
safe thing (to do) here in Mindanao.”
Over half-a-million pesos was offered to anyone who could
give information leading to the arrest of the suspects.
Vergel Bico
Vergel Bico was an editor and publisher of Kalahi newspaper in
Calapan City, Mindoro.
In the afternoon of September 4, Bico was riding his motorcycle
in Barangay Pachoca, when an unidentiϐied man riding tandem
on a motorcycle, shot him twice in the head.
Calapan City Police Chief Inspector D’Artagnan Katalbas Jr.
told CMFR on September 5 that the motive might be a personal
grudge, although they are still considering the possibility that it
is related to his work as a journalist.
Ronald Bula, publisher of Bandera Pilipino where Bico was a
columnist, said that Bico last wrote a column in December 2012
and the subjects he usually discussed were those related to
illegal gambling.
Bula said Bico told him he had received several threats before
from some government ofϐicials and other subjects of his columns.
Jesus “Jessie” Tabanao
Jessie Tabanao hosted the programs Police Line Up and Drug
Watch that aired weekends on dyRC Cebu 648. At the same
time, he worked as information ofϐicer for the Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Region VII.
Just before midnight, on September 14, an unidentiϐied
man shot Tabanao and took off on a motorcycle. Tabanao was
supposed to be on his way to fetch his wife, Katrina. Katrina, who
was eight months pregnant, was out celebrating a friend’s win
as Miss Press Freedom, part of the city’s Press Freedom Week
annual celebration every September.
Tabanao’s colleagues “condemn in the strongest terms the
senseless and brutal killing.” A statement from the Manila
Broadcasting Company and Cebu Broadcasting Company, parent
companies of dyRC, said that it is “ironic that (Tabanao) was
killed while Cebu is celebrating Broadcasters’ Month and a few
hours before the opening of the Press Freedom Week (in the
city).”
BY THE NUMBERS: ATTACKS AND THREATS AGAINST THE PRESS