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EDITORIAL: Peril of Impunity

With an earnest desire to convey our deep dismay regarding the ongoing tragedies of media personnel killings in our country, the Bicol Mail has chosen to align with the Fourth Estate’s advocacy to denounce these reprehensible acts. Consequently, this article is a reiteration of the shared stance in solidarity with those who advocate against these heinous crimes. - Editor

The Bicol Mail joins countless individuals in condemning the pervasive impunity witnessed in our country today. Just days following the observance of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, our nation was yet again afflicted by an appalling incident.

Juan Tumpag Jumalon, hosting his program on FM 94.7 Gold Radio Calamba in Misamis, Occidental, faced a harrowing attack. Two assailants forcefully entered the radio station set up in his home around 5:30 a.m. According to the police report, one of the men shot the broadcaster twice in the face and snatched his necklace before fleeing with the other, leaving Jumalon, the proprietor of the radio studio, fatally injured upon arrival at the hospital.

Known by the broadcast name DJ Johnny Walker, Jumalon becomes the fourth media worker murdered during the Marcos administration and the 199th since the restoration of democracy in 1986.

Irrespective of the motive, this audacious attack vividly underscores why the Philippines ranked eighth in the 2023 Global Impunity Index by the New York-based media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists. In the most recent World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, the Philippines stands at 132nd among 180 countries.

Despite marginal improvements in the impunity ranking due to arrests and prosecutions of suspects, masterminds often remain unidentified or at large in numerous cases of media worker murders. One such high-profile attack was on broadcaster Percy Lapid, also known as Percival Mabasa, near his Las Piñas home last year, where the accused masterminds, the then-director of the Bureau of Corrections Gerald Bantag and his chief aide Ricardo Zulueta, continue to evade justice.

While incidents of media worker murders are infrequent in Metro Manila, justice remains elusive for Lapid. Although the hired gunman is in police custody, Bantag and Zulueta roam free.

Impunity thrives in regions where the rule of law is weakest, where influential figures or groups exercise control over various aspects of the justice system. Unfortunately, such areas are far too common in our country. The bereaved loved ones and friends of Juan Tumpag Jumalon can only hope that his hometown is not one of these areas.


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