Philippine Church urged to speak out about journalists' murders

'Even our church leaders ... are silent over the killings,' media group says
Philippine Church urged to speak out about journalists' murders

Journalists march in Manila in 2010 to call for an end to impunity in the killings of journalists. (File photo by Vincent Go)

The National Press Club of the Philippines sharply criticized the country's political and church leaders for their silence over a series of killings of journalists in recent weeks. 

"Impunity continues because everybody is silent," said Joel Egco, press club president. "Nobody cares."

"The government is not protecting us, the police are not going after the killers, and even our church leaders in this supposedly Catholic country are silent over the killings," Egco told

Unidentified gunmen shot and killed radio broadcaster Cosme Maestrado, 46, in the southern Philippine city of Ozamiz on Aug. 27. 

He was the third Filipino journalist to be killed in the country in the past two weeks.

On Aug. 19, unidentified gunmen also shot and killed broadcaster Teodoro Escanilla in the town of Barcelona, Sorsogon province.

The day before, gunmen shot and killed Gregorio Ybanez, president of the Davao del Norte Press and Radio-TV Club.

Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma said the police have been directed "to identify and arrest those responsible for the killings."

"We strongly condemn the killing," he said in a statement.

Father Joselito Jopson, executive secretary of the Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media of the country's Catholic bishops' conference, said the Church supports the right to freedom of expression and denounces people who use force to "suppress the truth".

"We pray that the government would act swiftly to bring justice to our journalists who in the pursuit of truth are silenced violently," he wrote in a text message sent to

Father Edu Gariguez of the conference's National Secretariat of Social Action said he could not comment on the issue because he was "in a meeting."

"We are being killed and nobody is talking for us," an emotional Egco said. "We cannot blame our journalists for taking up arms to defend themselves," he said.

Several Filipino journalists have been arming to protect themselves from assassins. "It's our only protection from attacks," Egco said.

Early on Aug. 28, gunmen fired at a coffee shop owned by investigative journalist Anthony Taberna of ABS-CBN television network.

Taberna is known for his radio and television exposés on alleged corruption involving top government officials.

"If their intention is to intimidate and stop me, they are wrong," he said. "My principle is very simple, do what is right and reject what is wrong," Taberna said.

In February this year, the Philippines ranked 141 out of the 180 countries surveyed by Reporters Without Borders in its 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

More that 30 Filipino journalists have been killed since President Benigno Aquino took office in 2010.

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