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DAVAO CITY – Media watchdogs have strongly criticized President-elect Rodrigo Duterte for saying that most of journalists killed in the Philippines were corrupt or involved in corruption.

Duterte made the statement during a news conference late Monday in Davao City where he is temporarily holding office. The Philippines is one of the countries which ranked as one of the most deadliest in the world for journalists because of the spate of killings and the culture of impunity.

Many journalists were killed because of their strong criticisms of politicians and members of the security forces and individuals and groups involved in illegal activities.

Michaella Ortega, daughter of slain Palawan journalist Doc Gerry Ortega, was also shocked by Duterte’s statement. “Last night’s statements also came as a shock to us. Our family is incensed by the hasty and crass generalizations made about murdered journalists in the country. Doc Gerry Ortega was killed for his courage and integrity.”

“He was murdered precisely because he was honorable. He fought for social justice. He stood up against mining in Palawan. He exposed corruption in the provincial government, which included the misuse of billions of pesos from the Malampaya funds. This kind of speech is alarming because without due process, it casts absolute judgment on all murdered journalists including those who were killed for telling the truth,” she said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and National Press Club of the Philippines (NPCP) also issued separate statements about Duterte’s branding of the slain journalists.

“It is appalling that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte should justify the murder of journalists in the country by playing the corruption card. Mr. Duterte’s crass pronouncement not only sullies the names and memories of all 176 of our colleagues who have been murdered since 1986, he has also, in effect, declared open season to silence the media, both individual journalists and the institution, on the mere perception of corruption.”

“The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines does not gloss over the fact that corruption is among the most pressing problems faced by the media. Nor do we deny that this could be the reason for a number of media killings. However, it is one thing to recognize a possible reason for murder; it is a totally different thing to present this as a justification for taking life,” it said.

The NPCP branded Duterte’s statement as “too sweeping, generalized and therefore unfair to the victims in particular like Doc Gerry Ortega, Ampatuan massacre victims and to the entire profession in general.”

“While we acknowledge that there are also rotten members of the press similar to other professions like in the police and most especially among politicians, to simplify media killing as due to corruption in d press is to gloss over the fact that media killings happen due to the still prevalent culture of impunity,” it said.

The NPCP said families of those slain are still crying out for justice.

“Wala pang nabibigyan ng katarungan sa mga napaslang na kasapi ng media particular sa nakaraang 6 taon. Kaya mas malalakas ang loob ng mga nagbabalak ng karahasan laban sa media. This branding of the media would only justify more attacks against them,” it said.

Out of context

But Peter Lavina, a spokesman for Duterte, said the president was taken out of context by the media.

“The expected headlines aside from the new cabinet members would have been the declaration of war against red tape and the unnecessary burden and fees imposed on hapless citizens. Yet, national and international media lapped up on the issue of media killings. Again and as usual Rody Duterte was taken out of context, misinterpreted and misunderstood,” ani Lavina.

“For instance, his example of most slain journalists as being corrupt or involved in shady deals was based on his own assessment of those killed in Davao City and not on the national scale. Certainly, Duterte has no personal knowledge on each and every single case of media killings in many parts of the country. During the election campaign, Duterte has stated he would create a Task Force to address media killings and ask for a special prosecutor to focus on these cases. I repeated the same stand when I joined members of the National Press Club visit the wake of the most recent victim of media killing, Alex Balcoba, last Monday night.”

“When Duterte said last night that journalists become vulnerable to killings, it was because they were no longer seen as fair and neutral members of the media but because they have become partisan propagandists, deliberately using their media outlets in attacking or defending one party or another and collecting pay offs on both. In the context of Duterte’s campaign against corruption, his remarks indeed should be seen to mean a reminder or a message that there are also corruption in mass media. And he has seen this during the recent election when headlines, for instance, were being bumped off to give way to paid black propaganda masquerading as news items. Hence, he said you really want the truth? Well that’s the truth,” Lavina said.

The following was Duterte’s reply to questions posed by journalists during the press conference: “Kung papatayin ka talaga papatayin ka. There is no way to know that the next victim would be a journalist. Sa karamihan, prangka-prangka, may nagawa yan. Kasi hindi ka naman talaga papatayin diyan kung wala kang ginawa. Yung mga exposé or bad words against us, wala yan. Ako I’ve been mayor… pero karamihan niyan may, alam mo na, nabigyan na especially if you want to take sides. Nabayaran mo na tapos you play. Yan ang karamihan na namamatay. Or tumatanggap na sa mga sugarol, tapos binabaril. You really want the truth, yun ang truth.”

“There is still corruption sa inyong side. Marami yan. Hindi lang ang binibigyan niyan hindi lang ang pulis. Yung si Pala (Jun Porras Pala), binibigyan yan, kokolekta harap-harapan sasabihin kumolekta kami tapos sa kabila, babanatan mo. Ayun, that is the best example of bakit namamatay itong mga journalists. Ang prangka-prangka. Karamihan ganun. Kasi kung journalist ka lang na tao, walang gagalaw sa iyo especially if it is the truth but you cannot hide the truth. Pero yung ganun. Ang example natin dito, taga rito ka man, iyong si Pala. I do not diminish his memory, but he was a rotten son of a bitch.”

A link to the clip of the interview – from Facebook account Rodrigo Duterte as a leader – can be accessed here:  (Mindanao Examiner)

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