Killing of Percy Lapid in RP paints grim picture for media workers

Freedom of the press is guaranteed by the Philippines’ Constitution. Yet our country has become one of the most dangerous places in the world to exercise that right.

It’s one thing to enshrine a freedom in the constitution – it’s another to ensure that freedom in practice.

Every day, in courts and newsrooms across the country, journalists are literally fighting for their right to work freely – and safely.

Recently, veteran radio broadcaster Percy Mabasa, popularly known as Percy Lapid, was murdered in the Philippines.

Lapid, 63, was fatally shot at by motor-riding perpetrators on October 3, 2022.

Lapid was the third journalist in the Philippines to be killed in 2022 according to data from UNESCO, and the second one during the presidency of Bongbong Marcos according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

His death brings the number of killed media workers to 197 since 1986 when democracy was restored. Media workers in radio comprise 99 of this number, or 50%.

Through his program “Lapid Fire” on DWBL 1242, Lapid was known for his hard-hitting commentaries on the war on drugs, red tagging and corruption, not sparing the president himself, Bongbong Marcos and his predecessor ex-President Rodrigo Duterte.

This is a glaring proof of the continuing impunity and rabid acts of violence to silence media workers.

Just recently, Ronalyn Olea was publicly red-tagged in a recently aired program via Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI).

Olea, NUJP secretary general and managing editor of long-running online news site, was labeled “operatibong internet operator” for the Communist Party of the Philippines by SMNI anchors.

Not surprisingly, it was NTF-ELCAC’s (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) former spokesperson Lorraine Badoy who made the claim.

Media workers and supporters denounced the act, as it comes on the heels of the killing of Percy Lapid, followed shortly by online threats against broadcast journalists Ed Lingao and Lourd de Veyra.

GMA-7 broadcast journalist JP Soriano was “visited” by a police officer in plain clothes who claimed they were making “wellbeing and safety check”. Policemen also came unannounced to check on veteran broadcasters Noel Alamar and David Oro. ABS-CBN reporter Adrian Ayalin also had a similar encounter while dzXL reporter Lourdes Escaros was visited by a police officer in plain clothes at her radio station.

Police authorities had owned up to the house-to-house visits saying the move was to ensure media security and put a quick stop to it. However, the initiative stirred up alarm and concern regarding access to the involved media practitioners’ personal information by the police.

Shouldn’t these meetings be best done in newsrooms, various press corps, press clubs and journalists’ organizations, rather than homes?

The Philippine government should exercise its mandate to implement measures to protect media workers, put the perpetrators to justice, and double its efforts in protecting human rights in general.

We, as a community, should seek justice for Percy Lapid, stand with Ronalyn Olea and others, and condemn violence against media workers who continue to fight for press freedom amidst threats to their lives and livelihood.

Journalism is not terrorism. Activism is not terrorism.

As the saying goes, “no custodian of the truth should have to fear their deliverance of the facts.”

Let that sink in.