FFFJ: Corruption and the Killing of Journalists

Statement of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists

Janet Napoles and company may not have merely orchestrated the P10 billion pork barrel scam.  It now seems that they could also be among the beneficiaries of the misuse of P728 million in fertilizer funds in 2004.

Whistle-blower Benhur Luy has revealed that Napoles and company were involved in the fertilizer scam allegedly masterminded by former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc Joc”  Bolante,  the local manifestations of which Tacurong City journalist Marlene Esperat was among the first to expose,  and for which she was killed in  March, 2005.  Esperat thereby joined those other journalists—90 percent of them—who were killed from 1986 onwards for exposing corruption and criminality.

Esperat was killed in her home in the presence of her children, on the orders, according to prosecutors, of two officials of the Region XII office of the Department of Agriculture who feared exposure of their involvement in the use of the funds for the 2004 election campaign of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  Both officials have yet to be taken into custody, despite the issuance of an alias warrant against Osmena Montaner and Estrella Sabay last June, after months of delay due to their lawyers’ questioning the legality of the previously issued warrants of arrest, and the slowness of the courts involved.

The Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) has been at the forefront of the effort to bring the alleged masterminds to court.  While the case is by itself crucial to the imperative of ending the culture of impunity that continues to embolden the killers of journalists, an added dimension to it is the need to completely expose the extent to which corruption has not only compromised governance but has also contributed to the persistence of the killings, harassments and threats against journalists and media workers.

It is in this context that FFFJ is once again calling the attention of the Department of Justice, the Police and the Courts to bring the case against the suspected masterminds to a credible closure, and for the media and the public to monitor developments in a case that has become key to the citizenry’s understanding and appreciation of the web of corruption and murder that plagues this country and its impact on the media and the safety of journalists.