Murder of Metro Manila-based journalist prompts condemnation, calls for swift justice

A POLICE officer supervises the towing of the vehicle of broadcaster Percival Mabasa, also known as Percy Lapid, who died Monday night from a drive-by shooting as he was about to enter a gated village in Las Piñas City. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

THE MURDER of a radio journalist on Monday night in Las Piñas, a city in the Philippine capital region Metro Manila, has prompted condemnation from media groups and other sectors, who described the crime as a blow to press freedom.  

Radio journalist Percival Mabasa, 63, was killed by two assailants at the gate of a residential compound, police said on Tuesday. 

“That the incident took place in Metro Manila indicates how brazen the perpetrators were, and how authorities have failed to protect journalists as well as ordinary citizens from harm,” said the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. 

The national police vowed to bring justice over the attack. The government had no immediate comment. 

It followed the fatal stabbing last month of radio journalist Rey Blanco in Negros Oriental in central Philippines. 

The Akbayan political party said the most recent killing highlights the prevailing culture of impunity in the country. 

“We call on the authorities to find those responsible and bring them to justice,” it said in a statement. “This is what happens when a culture of violence and impunity is left unchecked.” 

The group added that Mr. Mabasa’s death was a blow to the free press in the country. 

The Philippines has one of Asia’s most liberal media environments, but it remains of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists, particularly in its provinces. 

At least 187 have been killed in the past 35 years in the Philippines, according to international watchdog Reporters Without Borders, including 32 killed in a single incident in 2009.  

Mr. Mabasa’s family called his killing a “deplorable crime” and demanded “his cowardly assassins be brought to justice.”  

Rights group Karapatan described him as “one of the country’s fiercest truth-tellers”.  

Videos on Mr. Mabasa’s YouTube channel, which has 216,000 subscribers, showed he had been critical of the previous president and some policies and officials in incumbent President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s administration.  

The Philippine National Police, in a statement, said a special task force has been created to lead the investigation.  

“We are not discounting the possibility that the shooting could be related to the victim’s work in media,” Las Piñas Police Chief Jaime Santos said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez and Reuters