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Senator Gordon: 61 extra judicial killings of journalists since 2001

Philippine Senate
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Privilege Speech on slain journalist Aristeo Padrigao

On November 17, another journalist was shot and killed in Gingoog City. Aristeo Padrigao was a blocktime commentator, radio show host of DZRS Radyo Natin and a columnist in the Mindanao Monitor Today. He made frequent exposes on illegal logging and other forms of graft and corruption in the city of Gingoog. He was shot dead at 7:15 a.m. in Gingoog City and died from a single .9 mm bullet in his right jaw.

Mr. President, my own father was assassinated and I hope this will be the last time that I would rise here but it seems that I've always made a commitment that when something like this happens, so dastardly an act, I am constrained to rise principally because it would appear that we have never learned, or we have never really pursued killers who kill with impunity in this country, especially judges, public officials, or for that matter, even the lowly

And so Mr. President, I rise on this matter again, hoping that it would be the last time, hoping that our policemen will finally take action on matters involving killing such as this.

Already, this country has been accused in the halls of Congress in the United States of America as being perpetrators of extra-judicial killings mainly because we had not been able to conduct any cogent investigation or for that matter, been able to arrest any of the suspects in these dastardly deeds.

Mr. Aristeo Padrigao was exercising his right as a citizen of this country, his right as a radioman, who take his role, seeing to expose things that are abusive and are certainly inimical to the interests of our communities.

Now Mr. President, this person, Aristeo Padrigao, was at the time he was killed, taking his children to go to school. A seven-year old child was with him and two motorcycle-riding men wearing dark jackets came by and shot him in the jaw and killed him instantly before the eyes of his seven-year old child.

Now Mr. President, what could be more dastardly than that, what could be more, so brazen in so far as our society is concerned? It is as if people of his ilk feel that they can go ahead and do it with impunity in broad daylight, in front of a school, in front of the families of these victims.

Having said that, it behooves the Senate which should be the forum upon which people can freely redress their grievances to their duly elected representatives such as us to move to finally put a stop and perhaps awaken our law enforcement authorities as well as our local officials to the fact that these killings must be contained. How many killings have been perpetrated using motorcycles? This is not the first time I've risen on this platform because in the past years, more and more killings have been conducted by people who are riding motorcycles.

We have filed a bill to make sure that people riding motorcycles should have a crash helmet and they should have a body number corresponding to the plate number so that anybody riding motorcycles could be stopped if there is no crash helmet with a body number. Unfortunately, it has been in the committee for so long. And I would like to awaken the committee concerned to perhaps take a look at that. Perhaps we can stop the killings if we create a way upon which we can take a bite out of crime, of making it difficult for them to commit these dastardly acts.

According to Uriel Quilingging, a friend of Padrigao, that the killing might have been due to the radio commentator's exposes about illegal logging.

All of us rise here from time to time. We conduct investigations here. We're not immune from the acts of these people and for that matter, so all the people who blow whistles on dastardly crimes in our country. If we do not act, we are encouraging in effect, these people who have no morals, who have no qualms of killing people in front of their families, to continue these acts.

My father was assassinated in 1967. It is now 2008 and it continues on and on, and so much so that it has become ho-hum to most of our people. It would appear that we just yawn and say, "These things happen. Talagang ganyan, wala tayong magagawa."

We should not be willing to accept it. And this Senate should call in the law enforcement authorities and haul them to task and bring in all the list of all those people whose families had been killed so that they can explain what they are doing to make sure that people don't get away with these criminal acts. And that is why, I rise once again to remind ourselves as well as the law enforcement authorities. We cannot just accept the statement of Supt. Leonroy Ga, Gingoog Police Chief, who said that his men were investigating reports that Padrigao had received death threats days before he was killed but found no other leads, except that the killing was related to Padrigao's work. Anybody can say that. What kind of policemen do we have, when all they can say is "we're investigating, we're making a follow-up. We're looking at this event but sorry there are no witnesses and we think it was related to his job that's why he was killed."

We must say no more. In fact, if the policemen of this country keep on saying that, this country has a right to start hauling the police chief concerned right here to let them know that the Senate of this country will not tolerate even the local police chiefs from saying "I cannot solve the case." We must tell them it's not gonna be business as usual anymore. And we should recommend that he be relieved and that the PNP chief himself explain to us what he is doing about it, what kind of programs he is doing about it to answer for all these motorcycle-related killings and public executions that have gone array in this country.

We call these policemen to task for taking P10-million out of the country. What is more dastardly than people who get away with killings when these policemen are supposed to be doing their jobs, making sure that they have criminal investigation techniques and they should be using the intelligence fund instead of using it for travel, they should have used that intelligence fund to identify organized crimes in this country, perpetrators of assassinations, guns for hire so that we can get these people to task.

And yet we heard the silly statement that day, "Ok na, bahala na ko jan. Pwedeng gamitin yung intelligence fund para gamitin natin pagpunta natin sa Moscow and spend the P10-million out there.

We can no longer tolerate this. I pray that is the last time I will rise on matters like this. But I'm afraid it will not be the last time because it has been my personal advocacy and the Senate president is aware of that, because as a young man when I was still in Law school, I went to the Department of Justice, at that time headed by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. And while with my mother went to him three years after my father had been, five years after my father had been assassinated and continued with every Secretary of Justice at that time to try to get the assassins or the masterminds of the killing of my father.

There are people who are killed and they do not have the voice as strong as we have here. So we must speak for them, we must speak for the seven-year old child of this individual who was killed. He cannot just be a statistic, so much that every time I go to Washington with the Ambassador of the Philippines and I speak with senators, lobbying for the guerillas, for the veterans so that they would be paid. I would not be threatened by a senator and say "We cannot give this to you, because we cannot give American money to people, whose record, whose government has a record of having extra-judicial killings.

Balewala yun, ang tunay na sitwasyon dito ay yung pinapatay na tao because he speaks. And if he can no longer speak, no one is safe. If judges cannot govern because they are shot, they cannot make decisions because they are killed in public and you know that I have risen there and when we did, we were fortunate enough because when they investigated they found out that mastermind was in Muntinlupa.. When I spoke here last time, on an incident involving a child whose parents were both Muslims and Christians. A Muslim-Christian wedding occurred and she was the daughter of this wedding and she was killed. Somebody grabbed her bag while she was going out of her job early in the morning and she was shot. When we spoke, the policemen acted. But we cannot speak all the time every time somebody is killed. However, if we make sure that when we call the policemen this time and we ask them and we tell them that we would no longer tolerate the kind of "ok lang situation, wala tayong magagawa, bahala na, pipilitin namin magawa yan." We must demand more of law enforcement, we must demand more of our community and our country. Let me just cite today the glaring statistics insofar as journalists are concerned.

Are we aware that this guy Mr. Padrigao who was murdered is the 6th journalist killed in this year alone. And are we also aware that he is the 61st journalist to be killed since 2001. Are we just gonna say, "hey, another statistic; another one bites the dust; another daughter orphaned." A community that remains silent, and what do we have? A community that is deadened by fear, that is afraid to speak up, that no longer feels it can handle situations like this because "wag ka na makialam baka ikaw pa ang barilin."

We must strengthen the resolve of our people. We must awaken their righteousness. We must tell them that there is a Senate in this country that will not tolerate this and that will do something about this. And let it be impressed upon our minds once again, according to a sage once upon a time, let it be instilled into your children, that the liberty of the press is the palladium of all the civil, political, religious rights. If that palladium is destroyed, if that palladium that privilege of being able to report on matters that are important for people to know, that their environment is being destroyed, that their trees are being cut by those who are greedy in this country. If they start becoming afraid, then we will have as we have had in past incidence mudslides that kill other people. And that is why this gentleman was killed because he dared spoke up like that.

And so I would like to ask the Senate to refer this to the proper committee right away. And so that we can call no less than the Chief PNP, and no less than the people who are in charge of Intelligence in this country and make a demand upon them that they must come out with a report of all these unsolved crimes in this country so that finally we could have some action on this matter.

I would like to thank our members of the Senate for having had the patience to listen, but I think this cannot be ignored and we cannot be complacent or apathetic about it

Thank you Mr. President.

Dionesio C. Grava - Community journalist based in Los Angeles. Member of New America Media, Society of Professional Journalists, and Society of Environmental Journalists, among others.

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