Philippines press club demands media workers protection

Police challenged to solve reporter's killing in next 40 days
Philippines press club demands media workers protection

Journalists carry the remains of reporter Rubilita Garcia in a "march for justice" in Manila on Tuesday (photo by Edgar Rabulan)

The National Press Club (NPC) of the Philippines has urged the government to step up its investigation of the killing of a tabloid journalist last week that has sparked renewed criticism of the authorities’ failure to protect media workers.

Benny Antiporda, president of the NPC, on Tuesday reissued a challenge to authorities to resolve the case within the next 40 days.

"We believe that 40 days is more than enough time for the police to solve the case, given its claim that it is 'doing everything' it can," Antiporda said.

Rubilita Garcia, a reporter for the tabloid newspaper Remate, was gunned down in front of her 10-year-old granddaughter on April 6.

Antiporda said that if authorities could not make progress in 40 days, the press club would appeal to “outside bodies” to put pressure on the government.

[We] shall never stop until [Garcia] and other victims of violence against the media are given justice,” he said.

Authorities earlier said the resolution of the killing of Rubilita Garcia was a "top" priority and that the Philippine National Police has already formed a “special investigation task force” to look into Garcia’s killing.

Local government officials of the province of Cavite have put up a US$2,250 bounty for the immediate arrest of Garcia’s killers in the town of Bacoor.

Journalists and members of civil society groups carried the remains of Garcia on Tuesday in a "march for justice" to the presidential palace to call for the immediate resolution of the case.

Antiporda said Garcia was the 24th victim of media killings in the country since 2010 when President Benigno Aquino came to power and the 160th since 1986 when democracy was restored in the country. 

"Two dozen already killed, how many more must die for Aquino to act?" Antiporda said.

Meanwhile in the southern city of Tagum, the National Union of Journalists reported this week that two broadcasters were subjected to questioning by policemen who identified themselves as intelligence officers.

Erwin Batucan and Jojo Gales, both reporters at 100.7 FM, went to check on police news but ended up being interrogated themselves.

The union said in a statement that the experience of the reporters showed the "usual response by state security when they are being asked of issues on human rights committed by their colleagues."

The statement added that authorities are once again resorting to "the usual branding of such journalists as biased and leftist, and profiling journalists through interrogation and spying."

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