Hon. Reynato S. Puno y Serrano
Dear President Arroyo and Chief Justice Puno:
We are greatly concerned by the apparent lack of an
effective government response to threats made against Marites Danguilan Vitug,
one of the Philippines’
senior and most eminent journalists. Vitug said she believes your intervention will
serve as a deterrent to whoever is trying to intimidate her, and, hopefully, to
those who try to intimidate other journalists in the future.
According to Vitug, the most recent threat was a stalking
incident on March 24. In the days before that she received four menacing text
messages that mentioned following her; she said a threatening message had also
been sent to her son.
Earlier this week, Midas Marquez,
the Supreme Court’s spokesman, told Philippine reporters that he found the
threats against Vitug “funny” and “ridiculous.” He also advised
reporters, “Let’s not make this a
big issue.” We find it disheartening that the highest judicial
institution in the Philippines
dismissed these threats. Marquez then
insinuated that the threats against Vitug were part of an attempt to gain
publicity for her book Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court. “I hope it's not a statement to generate sales
for the book,” he is
widely quoted as having told reporters. This not only insults Vitug but denigrates
the reputation of the court.
Marquez nor anyone else within the court’s administration has responded to
numerous appeals from us for clarification.
told us that Manila police have not been able
to trace the source of the threats, but have advised her to take security
precautions such as changing her daily travel routes and avoiding public
Arroyo, Chief Justice Puno, as you know, we have long held the Philippines
government responsible for the high level of impunity that has left unprosecuted
virtually all 61 of the cases of journalists we count as killed in the country
since 1992. The fact that a journalist of Vitug’s stature can be threatened in
the capital city and that those threats have been callously dismissed by a
spokesman for the highest court in the country only further discredits your
government and the country’s judicial system.
urge you to press for a full investigation of the threats against Marites Vitug
not only for her safety, but for that of the country’s other journalists, and
for the reputation of the Philippines.