Binay: Media violence has ‘no place in my presidency’

Mara Cepeda
Vice President Jejomar Binay vows to work for the resolution of unsolved media killings, even as he cites having lawyered for journalists during martial law

FIGHTER FOR THE MEDIA. Vice President Jejomar Binay promises no tolerance for the killing of media men. Photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay promises to work for the resolution of unsolved media killings and to protect journalists should he win as president.

“Violence against the media has no place in a Binay presidency. Press freedom must be respected and prioritized by the government, and only a decisive leadership can end this culture of impunity in our country,” said the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) standard-bearer in a statement on Thursday, March 31. 

Binay made the statement after the National Press Club of the Philippines challenged presidential bets to disclose their stand on the media killings in the country.

“A leadership that shies away from these issues and downplays the murder of our journalists as not work-related is unacceptable. Likewise, a leadership that supports such atrocities is no leadership at all,” added the Vice President, indirectly taking a swipe against the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

The Philippines is the 4th worst country in unsolved media murders, according to the 2015 Global Impunity Index of New York-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). 

The report noted that there had been 44 media killings since September 2005 “with complete impunity,” 7 of which occurred during the Aquino administration.

The CPJ’s figures include the 32 media men killed during the Maguindanao massacre in 2009, a bloody point in history that others cite as proof for the culture of impunity in the Philippines. The cases remain unsolved, as a number of witnesses have been killed and families of victims forced to settle with the suspects. (READ: Justice still elusive 6 years after Maguindanao massacre)

Binay, who faces several accusations of corruption and unexplained wealth, left the Aquino Cabinet in 2015 for its supposed “crooked, failed” governance. 

Long-time champ for journos

The Vice President said he had long been defending the rights of journalists because he was a human rights lawyer for the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity, and Nationalism Incorporated (Mabini).

Binay, together with Mabini lawyer Rene Saguisag, former Senator Lorenzo Tañada, and the late Senator Joker Arroyo, had defended newspaper WE Forum and its editors led by Joe Burgos who faced a sedition case during the martial law period. 

Matagal nating ipinaglaban na muling mabawi ang kalayaan sa pamamahayag. Maraming nagbuwis ng buhay sa hanay ng mga mamamahayag upang tayo at ang mga susunod pang henerasyon ay makinabang,” said Binay.

(We had long been fighting to regain the freedom of journalists. Many of them risked their lives for our sake and the sake of the next generations.)

Hindi natin papayagan na mayroong mga indibidwal o grupo na babaluktutin ang katotohanan o kikitilin ang boses ng taumbayan. Naniniwala ako na ang media ang isa sa mga haligi ng demokrasya,” he added.

(We’re not going to let any individual or groups to twist the truth and to silence the voice of the people. I believe the media is the foundation of democracy.)

The Vice President said that his running mate Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II, whom Binay plans to appoint as crime czar, would ensure the safety of journalists.  

UNA spokesperson Mon Ilagan, a former broadcast journalist, said Binay is “serious” in addressing media killings in the Philippines. 

Ang kawalan ng pagtugon ng gobyerno sa nakalipas na anim na taon ay nagpapakita lamang kung gaano kamanhid at walang pakialam ang administrasyon na bigyang proteksyon ang mga taga-media at maging ang taumbayan,” said Ilagan.

(The government’s failure to respond to this issue in the past 6 years only shows that the administration does not care about protecting the media and our countrymen.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.