THE Bicol region is one of the country’s most vulnerable and dangerous areas for media workers according Usec. Joel Sy Egco, executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS).
Since 2003, Egco said that some 14 local media workers were killed wherein the latest victim of killing was former DZMS radio reporter Jobert “Polpog” Bercasio, who was working with Balangibog News Online portal when he was killed.
“Bicol is vulnerable region for media and is No. 5 based on our inventory due to intense political scenario,” Egco said.
He said that the dangerous or vulnerable areas for media workers in the country are: Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with 33 media practitioners killed; followed by Regions 11 and 12 with 17 kilings each; Region 3 with 15 killings; Region 5 with 14 killings; and Region 4A with 13 or a total of 119 since 2003.
“That’s the total cases of media killing since 2003 as there was no cases in the earlier years,” the PTFoMS chief said.
The National Union Journalists of the Philippines (NJUP) reported 189 media killings since 1986. Under President Rodrigo Duterte’s reign, Barcasio is number 17 in media killing cases.
The PTFoMS denounced the killing of former radioman Jobert “Polpog” Bercasio who was gunned down by motorcycle riding-in-tandem gunmen near Seabreeze Homes in Brgy. Cabid-an, Sorsogon on Sept. 14 at about 7:55 PM.
Initial investigation conducted by the Sorsogon City Police Office revealed that Bercasio was shot several times at point blank range while on-board his motorcycle by two armed men wearing helmets and black jackets and riding a blue Mio motorcycle, resulting to the victim’s immediate death.
Witnesses said that the suspects came from Bolago and fled towards the diversion road after the shooting.
The victim ran as vice mayor in his hometown but lost. It was only recently that he put up his own Facebook-based program that he managed himself.
Egco pointed out that the death of Bercasio has sounded alarm bells over the growing number of purely Facebook-based broadcast platforms being used by a lot of people.
He said he would ask the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) and other media organizations on how these “online news” outlets should be treated and how the practice should be regulated.
“It is important to know how they survive and how they really operate. There are certain privileges here that are lacking. First, the clear non-requirement of a franchise. Second, their business operations. We need to know how they could pay for their salaries and of their staff members if any. Any ‘guerilla’ type of broadcast operation is dangerous, as it would be vulnerable to all sorts of threats, “ Egco said.
PTFoMS co-chair and Presidential Communication Operations Office Secretary Martin M. Andanar, for his part, said: “The government strongly condemns the heinous killing of Mr. Jobert Bercasio. We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the bereaved family of the victim.”
It is the mandate of PTFoMS to ensure the safety and security of media workers. The Presidential Task force initially presumes all forms of violence against media workers to be work-related until further investigation proves otherwise.
“We are relentless in pursuing perpetrators behind any attack against our media workers,” Egco said in a press statement.
“Mark my words, It will just be a matter of time before the suspects of this brazen act are identified and put behind bars. We will not rest until the killers face justice.” Egco said.
PTFoMS is on top of the situation and is closely coordinating with all law-enforcement agencies to identify and arrest the suspects in the killing.