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Philippine impunity crisis deepens with two murders

Last week, two Philippine radio broadcasters were killed, gunned down in broad daylight on busy city streets. The murders, only four days apart, highlighted the continuing vulnerability of journalists here and the government's inability to protect them.

The broadcasters were shot in separate, unrelated incidents. But the killings were eerily similar to other journalist slayings here in the past years: They were carried out by armed assassins riding tandem on motorcycles. Last week's casualties brought to 34 the number of journalists murdered in the Philippines since CPJ began keeping count in 1992. In only two of those cases have the killers been tried and convicted.

On August 4, Dennis Cuesta, a program director and anchor for the DXMD radio station was shot at about 4 p.m. on his way to a shopping mall in Gen. Santos City, on the southern island of Mindanao. He was seriously wounded and died five days later.

Cuesta's wife Gloria told Mindanews, a Mindanao-based Web site, that her husband had been receiving death threats for his commentaries on illegal gambling, government corruption, and illegal drugs in his public affairs program "Straight to the Point."

On August 7, Martin Roxas, the anchor of a hard-hitting noontime radio program on station DYVR in Capiz, central Philippines, was shot and killed as he was leaving his office at about 1 p.m. Roxas was also the station's program director and auditor of the local chapter of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines

The organization has linked the killing to prominent local families whom Roxas had criticized during one of his broadcasts. It asked the radio network and local authorities to provide extra security and protection for journalists. 

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance said the murders were indicative of a continuing crisis of impunity against Filipino journalists. The fact that the assailants have gotten away with murder only encourages more attacks against the press.

(Reporting from Manila)

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Is it possible that the killing of Mr. Cuesta could be related to the Islamic rebellion now ongoing in the region, and not exactly what you seem to be suggesting?

Mindanao is an extremely troubled region where Islamist fundamentalists have gunned their way to respectability in a region wihtout clear state authority and certainly no judicial order whatsover.

CPJ will do itself a favor by keeping an open mind and not always assume the stand that governments are solely responsible for the killings of newsmen and -women.