Radio broadcaster Juan Jumalon, known as DJ Johnny Walker of Gold FM 94.7 Calamba, was slain in his home station in Misamis Occidental while airing his Sunday program, prompting media organizations to condemn the killing as symptomatic of the prevailing culture of impunity in the country.
A protest action, held in front of the Commission on Human Rights Main Office on Sunday, saw the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Union of Journalists of the Philippines (UJP) UP among other groups call out the failure of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration in protecting journalists and reinforcing attacks.
With the addition of Jumalon, there have now been 199 journalists killed since 1986, four of whom were slain during the current administration, according to a count by the NUJP.
"Mas pinagpapatuloy ni Marcos Jr. ang atrocities na ginagawa ng mga past administration with silencing the press and sa pagpapatuloy ng culture of impunity kung saan nakakalaya yung mga gumawa at mga mastermind," said UJP UP Chairperson Josh Avengoza in an interview with Collegian.
In the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) 2023 Global Impunity Index, the Philippines was ranked the eighth most dangerous country for journalists. The country has consistently stayed in the top 10 for all the 16 years that CPJ started releasing an annual index.
“A culture of self-censorship persists and Marcos’ change in tone has not yet been accompanied by substantive actions to undo the damage wrought to press freedom under the Rodrigo Duterte administration,” stated CPJ in its report.
The index tallied 20 unsolved murder cases of journalists in the Philippines since 1992–including that of Percy Lapid's in 2022, whose perpetrators have still not been brought to justice. Other victims since Marcos’s start of term include fellow broadcasters Rey Blanco and Cris Bundoquin whose suspected killers have been arrested but are still awaiting sentencing.
As for the perpetrators in Jumalon’s case, the Calamba Municipal Police Station has identified three persons of interest, alongside a release of a facial composite of one of the suspects. None of the suspects have yet been apprehended.
Though the motive behind the murder remains unclear, Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) Executive Director Paul Gutierrez pushed to categorize Jumalon's death as “work-related” for the sole reason that he was described as an upstanding media worker. The task force also urged the Philippine National Police to form a special group to probe the killing.
The PTFoMS was created under former President Rodrigo Duterte supposedly as a safeguard for journalists but has repeatedly been criticized for its inaction or harmful statements where it had refused to label a media attack as such.
“Hindi effective yung PTFoMS kasi matindi at andito pa rin yung state surveillance and state-sponsored attacks on media kaya naging lip service na lang ito,” said Avengoza.
Instead of implementing more effective measures to protect journalists, the government passed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 despite protests from media workers. Freedom of speech and expression have only been further curtailed since, said Avengoza, leading to continued calls to junk the law.
“Yung pinakakagyat na maaaring gawin ng gobyerno ay pag-uphold at pagsesafeguard sa mga mamamahayag, at pag-ensure ng genuine commitment sa pagsisiguro na ligtas sila sa kabila ng maraming krisis at pagkiling talaga sa interes ng mga mamamayan by … junking all laws na nag-ku-curtail sa freedom of speech and expression tulad ng Anti-Terrorism Law,” he said. ●
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