Second journalist murdered since Marcos took office

Unknown persons shot dead radio commentator Percival Mabasa – or also called Percy Lapid – while riding a motorbike on Monday October 3, 2022, in Las Piñas City in Metro-Manila. Lapid was known as “a fearless broadcaster” who criticised Duterte’s so-called “war on drugs”.

Lapid was the second journalist to be killed since President Ferdinand Marcos took office. On September 18, 2022, radio journalist Renato Blanco was stabbed to death in Mabinay Town in Negros Oriental. According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), a total of 197 journalists have been killed in the Philippines since 1986.

The Philippine National Police first launched a murder investigation and put a bounty on the head of a suspect already identified by CCTV footage. On October 17, the alleged perpetrator, Joel Escorial, turned himself in to the police and confessed that he shot Lapid. In an extrajudicial affidavit Escorial confessed that three other persons were involved into the murder. Someone from Bilibid Prison gave the order for the murder for a total of P550,000. The assassination of Lapid was strongly condemned. The Makabayan bloc also called for the ceasing of all actions that defame journalists, opposition activists and critical citizens as “terrorists”.

Two activists were charged in the Quezon City District Court on October 10, 2022, for alleged robbery and direct assault: These were Kilusang Mayo Uno international speaker Kara Taggaoa and Pasiklab Operators and Drivers Association (PASODA) president Helari Valbuena. The fabricated charges against the two are said to stem from their alleged participation in a protest against the Anti-Terrorism Act held before the Quezon City Commission on Human Rights on July 11, 2020.

There have already been fabricated charges against human rights defender Rev. Glofie Baluntong in 2019 and 2021. She stood in solidarity with the indigenous Mangyang group for the protection of indigenous rights on Mindoro Island. As a result, she was first charged with murder and received a summons asking her to appear in another criminal case for alleged violations of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The United Methodist Church of the Philippines called on the government in a public statement for all charges to be dropped.

The Philippine Department of Justice announced plans to release 5,000 detainees by June 2023 to “decentralise the overburdened prison system“.

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