In the Philippines: Three Journalists Were Killed for Their Work in 2015


THE CENTER for Media Freedom and Responsibility takes exception to the statement in the 2015 Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) report on the killing of journalists worldwide that no journalists in the Philippines were killed for a work-related reason last year.

Out of nine journalists killed last year, at least three were killed in the line of duty in the Philippines.  CMFR establishes the motive for the killing of journalists by looking into the work the journalist was doing, his or her reputation among his or her colleagues, whether he or she had received death threats in connection with his or her work, and interviews with the local police. On these bases, CMFR has established the following:

  • Broadcaster Cosme Maestrado, who survived an attempt on his life in 2011, was killed on August 27 last year in Ozamis City, Misamis Occidental. Mr. Maestrado had been receiving death threats that clearly indicated that they were due to his work as a radio commentator over a local radio station. His fellow broadcasters were also certain that he was killed for his work.
  • On August 18, 2015, print journalist Gregorio Ybañez was killed in Tagum City, Davao del Norte. Ybañez was president of the Davao del Norte Press and Radio-TV Club sand at the time he was killed writing a column for a local newspaper. Mr. Ybañez, said his colleagues, had been using his column to publish information on an ongoing conflict between two factions fighting for control of the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative. Although Mr. Ybañez was involved in the dispute and his use of his column constituted a conflict of interest, he was nevertheless killed for his work as a journalist.
  • Two gunmen shot and killed broadcaster Teodoro Escanilla in Barcelona town, Sorsogon province on August 19, 2015. Mr. Escanilla anchored a program over a local radio station and was also chair of a local left-wing workers’ organization as well as spokesperson of the human rights group “Karapatan” (Rights). The police were unclear about the possible motive, but his colleagues suggested that his killing was due to his commentaries as well as his involvement in the labor and rights groups.

On November 21, 2015, broadcaster Jose Bernardo in Quezon City, Metro Manila. The motive for this killing is unclear, but so far, evidence has not established that it is not work-related.

In any event, the number of journalists killed in 2015—nine—, whatever the motive, is indicative of both the state of law and order in the Philippines and of continuing impunity. That number should by itself be disturbing.