VERA Files receives death threats

MANILA – A Facebook user sent death threats to VERA Files on June 24 through the news outlet’s FB Messenger, editor Ellen Tordesillas reported to CMFR today.

In a screengrab of one the messages Tordesillas shared with CMFR, a Facebook user who identified himself as Melbert Abarquez said in the Visayan language, “All of you sons of a devil, do you want to get killed? Be careful with the reports you’re spreading.”

Abarquez also sent a photo purportedly of him and a companion holding firearms. Under the picture is this message: “You wanna [sic] die? WTF. Pagod na kayu huminga. Mag ayus ayus kayu ha.” (Are you tired of breathing? Behave yourselves.)”

According to Tordesillas, the threats came after VERA Files posted a video that fact-checked the claim by Senator Ronald dela Rosa that former president Rodrigo Duterte’s statement to kill police officers involved in the illegal drug trade was said out of frustration. VERA Files disproved the claim by recalling Duterte’s past statements and his “kill, kill, kill” policy.

VERA Files has already reported the incident to Facebook.

Since the Duterte administration, CMFR has received several reports of online harassment — including death threats — against journalists. These continue in the current administration. 

On October 4, 2022, a day after the murder of broadcaster Percy Lapid, TV5 journalists Ed Lingao* and Lourd de Veyra received a threat from a Twitter user who said they were the next targets.  

In the Philippines, 178 journalists have been killed since 1986. Only 17 cases, excluding those of the 32 killed in the Maguindanao massacre, have resulted in the conviction of the gunmen involved. 

CMFR maintains a database to  promote awareness about the threats and attacks against journalists and media workers. The experience of VERA Files shows how little has changed under the current administration as the intimidation and harassment of Rodrigo Duterte against the media still persist. – (CMFR)

*Ed Lingao is a member of the CMFR’s board of trustees.