Oct 032014


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA2241 2005-05-16 07:08 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


¶B. MANILA 1151
¶C. MANILA 0312
¶D. 04 MANILA 5853

¶1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified —
Please handle accordingly.

¶2. (SBU) Summary: Two more journalists have been slain in
the Philippines in the past two weeks. This brings to five
the number of killings of journalists this year, according to
most sources. Police appear to be actively investigating the
latest killings, but no suspects have been arrested as of
yet. Malacanang condemned the killings, and is creating a
special fund meant to facilitate investigations and to
protect witnesses. In apparent reaction to the criticism it
has received domestically and in two recent international
reports, the GRP seems to be newly aware of the gravity of
the situation. Mission continues to emphasize to the GRP the
need for swift action against those who have perpetrated the
attacks. End Summary.

Latest Killings

¶3. (U) Killings of journalists in the Philippines are
continuing at an alarming rate, with the recent murders of
two more media personnel. On May 10, two unidentified
assailants killed Philip Agustin, who was a
publisher/columnist/reporter for the “Starline Times
Recorder,” a local newspaper, in Dingalan, Aurora Province in
southern Luzon. Dingalen City Councilor Valentino Lapuz and
Agustin’s family accused Dingalan Mayor Jaime Ylarde of
“masterminding” the killing. On May 11, Agustin was
scheduled to release 500 reprinted copies of the May 2-8
issue of the newspaper, which carried stories alleging
financial irregularities involving Ylarde. Agustin
specifically accused the mayor of not moving forward with
resettlement programs for more than 1,000 families displaced
by landslides caused by a series of typhoons in
November-December 2004 (Ref D). He also accused Ylarde of
corruptly diverting funds from the city’s operating budget
and calamity funds, and making profit by selling relief goods
and timber. Ylarde denied that he was involved in any way in
the killing.

¶4. (U) On May 4, three unidentified men shot and killed
Klein Cantoneros, a radio broadcaster and journalist for DXAA
Radio in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte Province in
Mindanao. Cantoneros, who frequently criticized local
officials for alleged corruption and mismanagement of
government agencies, had received death threats prior to his

¶5. (U) With the latest two slayings, the National Union of
Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reports that five
journalists have been killed in work-related slayings this
year in the Philippines. (Note: The GRP’s police “Task Force
Newsmen” puts the figure at three, asserting that two of the
murders were not work-related, but the NUJP figure is the
most widely accepted.) Four additional journalists have
survived attempts on their lives since January 1, 2005.

Police Response

¶6. (U) The Philippine National Police (PNP) reacted to the
slayings quickly. A regional police team in Zamboanga del
Norte Province was tasked with investigating the Cantoneros
case and it released an artist’s sketch of one of the
suspects. PNP Director General Arturo Lomibao removed the
chief of the Zamboanga del Norte regional police and the
Dipolog city chief of police from the investigating team at
the request of the broadcaster’s family, which claimed that
the two officials could not be trusted to investigate the
crimes impartially. In the case of Augustin, Lomibao assured
the victim’s family that there would be “swift police action
to arrest and prosecute the killers.” Police have not yet
identified any suspects in the case.

¶7. (U) The PNP’s “Task Force Newsmen,” which was formed by
the GRP last year in response to the wave of killings,
updated Mission on the progress of their investigations.
Regarding the case of Marlyne Esperat, the PNP confirmed that
it has arrested three suspects in connection with the
killing, and said a fourth suspect had surrendered
voluntarily. The Department of Justice has filed murder
charges against the four in the regional trial court in
Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat Province, in Mindanao. (Note:
Esperat, a well-known journalist in Mindanao, was killed on
March 24.) Task Force Newsmen could not confirm that any
other suspects had been apprehended for the other killings.

GRP Reacts

¶8. (SBU) Reacting to the latest killings, which received a
high level of press play, the GRP announced that the
continuing violence against members of the media was a top
“security” concern for the Philippines. President Arroyo
directed Interior and Local Government Secretary Angelo Reyes
to draw up a plan to solve and prevent the attacks. GRP
officials are also meeting with press groups on May 16 to
discuss ways of solving and preventing the slayings. At this
meeting, the GRP will formally announce the creation of a
“Press Freedom Fund,” which will allocate 5 million pesos
(92,600 USD) to create a “quick reaction” team that will
investigate cases, offer rewards for information leading to
the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators, and upgrade the
PNP’s witness protection program. The money for the fund is
being donated from the coffers of Malacanang and the House

¶9. (U) Several senators have also raised concerns about the
killings. Manuel Villar, chairman of the Senate Committee on
Public Order, proposed a resolution that would instruct the
Committee to conduct an inquiry and to recommend policy
measures meant to protect press freedom. Bong Revilla, Jr.,
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Information and
Mass Media, also expressed alarm over the recent violence
against the press. He challenged police leaders to take full
responsibility for the investigation and to “hunt down” the
perpetrators. Senator Revilla also appealed to the public to
help the authorities solve the cases by volunteering
information that would expedite their resolution.


¶10. (SBU) In apparent reaction to the criticism it has
received on the issue domestically and in two recent
international reports, the Philippine government appears
newly aware of the gravity of the situation. (Note:
“Reporters Without Borders” issued a report on the situation
in early May, as did the “Committee to Protect Journalists,”
which characterized the Philippines as “the most dangerous
place in the world” for media personnel.) The NUJP says it
continues to worry about the situation and hopes that the
latest killings will spur GRP efforts to get to the bottom of
the string of attacks, which have gone on for years now.
(Note: Since 1986, over 60 media personnel have been slain
in the Philippines, and there has only been one conviction.)
At this point, it is important that the GRP ratchet up the
pressure on the police to follow up on any and all leads, and
bring charges where that is justified. Mission continues to
emphasize to the GRP the need for the swift apprehension of
those who have perpetrated the attacks.



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