Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 005749
DEPT FOR EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, EAP/PD, DRL/CRA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PINS KCOR KPAO RP
SUBJECT: CONVICTION IN MEDIA KILLING, BUT SLAYINGS CONTINUE
REF: A. MANILA 5521
¶B. MANILA 5346
¶C. MANILA 1595
¶1. (U) This message is Sensitive But Unclassified —
Please handle accordingly.
¶2. (SBU) Summary: A Philippine court has sentenced a former
policeman to life imprisonment for murdering a journalist,
the first such conviction since 2000. The Philippines,
however, remains a very dangerous place for members of the
media with ten killed this year, including three in the past
three weeks. Amid mounting criticism, GRP officials have
promised a crack down. Mission continues to urge the GRP to
apprehend and prosecute those responsible. End Summary.
Ex-Cop Convicted of Murder
¶3. (U) On November 29, a Regional Trial Court in Cebu City
convicted former police officer Guillermo Wapile for the
murder of Edgar Damalerio in 2002. Damalerio was a
journalist in Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur Province in
Mindanao, when he was shot and killed. The case was
transferred to Cebu City in May 2005 after three witnesses,
as well as the policeman who first responded to the crime,
were murdered in the Zamboanga area. (Note: The police
continue to investigate these latter four killings. End
Note.) The court sentenced Wapile to life imprisonment and
ordered him to pay Damalerio’s family 135,000 pesos
(approximately USD 2,500) in damages. Wapile is appealing
the decision. According to the Philippine National Police
(PNP) Criminal and Investigation Group “Task Force Newsmen,”
this is the sixth conviction for a murder of a member of the
media since 1986 and the first since 2000. However, the
National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP) says
that there have only been three convictions total since 1986.
But Killings Continue
¶4. (U) Despite the conviction, slayings of members of the
media continue. Recent incidents have included:
— December 1: George Benaojan, a reporter for DYDD Radio in
Talisay City, Cebu Province in the central Philippines, was
shot dead on December 1. Police have identified one of three
suspects in the killing of Benaojan and charged him in
absentia with murder, but no arrests have been made.
— November 20: Two gunmen killed newspaper reporter Robert
Ramos in Cabuyao, Laguna Province, located south of Manila.
Police have identified two suspects, but have not yet made
— November 18: A lone gunman killed radio announcer Ricardo
Uy in Sorsogon City, Sorsogon Province in southern Luzon.
Police have not made any arrests in the case.
So far, ten members of the media have been slain in 2005. In
2004, a total of 13 were killed (see ref C for further
¶5. (U) PNP Chief Arturo Lomibao reacted swiftly to the
recent killings; he visited the sites of both Ramos’ and Uy’s
killing and said he would be personally involved in the
investigations. Secretary of Interior and Local Government
Angelo Reyes also condemned the killings and promised a crack
down. According to the PNP’s Task Force Newsmen, there are
15 work-related cases involving murders of members of the
media currently on trial.
¶6. (SBU) Nonetheless, NGOs continue to criticize the
government for failing to do enough to protect media
personnel. The NUJP says that 73 media personnel have been
slain since 1986 — 36 since President Arroyo came to power
in 2001, with the implication that the situation has worsened
significantly on her watch. The NUJP has warned that some
members of the media are responding by arming themselves,
offering bounties on those who have killed media personnel,
and even talking of forming vigilante groups to fight back.
Many in news organizations also note that the media has to do
a better job of policing itself in order to rid itself of the
tarnish of “envelope journalism.” Such corruption
effectively involves media personnel in local disputes, which
can be very dangerous when those who are targeted lash out.
¶7. (SBU) International NGOs monitoring violence against
journalists have labeled the Philippines the most dangerous
country for journalists after Iraq. The conviction of the
former policeman is encouraging and sends a signal, but much
more effort on the part of the GRP is needed. The killing of
media personnel, in addition to extrajudicial killings of
alleged criminals and attacks on leftist activists (refs A
and B), highlight the high-level of day-to-day violence in
the Philippines. Mission continues to urge the GRP to
apprehend and prosecute those responsible, and to underscore
to Filipinos the need to respect the rule of law.