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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The culture of impunity and distrust in the government’s ability to protect media and bring assailants to justice have reignited the debate on whether media workers in the country should be armed.
In Cagayan de Oro, several broadcasters have renewed their calls for the government to ease restrictions for media workers who want to own and carry guns following the killing of 57-year-old broadcaster Juan “Johnny Walker” Jumalon in Calamba, Misamis Occidental on November 5.
Frank Mendez, the president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC), is one of the voices advocating for journalists to arm themselves for protection.
He argued that if the Philippine National Police (PNP) cannot guarantee to protect media workers, then they should be allowed to carry guns for self-protection.
“Ease the requirements for gun license applications and allow journalists the means to protect themselves,” Mendez said.
Many netizens watched in horror as Jumalon’s murder was inadvertently live-streamed. He was killed while hosting his morning program, Pahapyod sa Kabuntagon (Rubbing touch in the morning), at 94.7 Gold FM Calamba.
Jumalon’s killing sent shockwaves across the country, especially in media communities in Mindanao.
Mendez said it was clear that killers were enjoying impunity, believing they can get away with the murder of journalists due to the police’s inability to protect citizens.
“These killings must be stopped,” he said.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Jumalon was the fourth media practitioner killed since 2022, following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s rise to power. Jumalon’s murder also adds to the growing list of nearly 200 murdered media workers in the country since 1986, after the downfall of the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Hours after the fatal shooting, Marcos Jr. ordered the police to catch Jumalon’s killers, saying that “such heinous attacks on our journalists have no place in a democratic nation.”
In Bukidnon province, broadcaster Randie Makiputin expressed his support for easing gun restrictions for journalists. He said the government should make it easier for them to own firearms and obtain permits.
Makiputin survived an attempt on his life in 2014 because he was armed and acted swiftly. He claims the assailant ran off as soon as he fired a warning shot.
“I would not be talking to you now if I did not have a gun in my possession,” Makiputin told Rappler on Monday, November 7.
Iligan-based broadcaster Joe Pantoja had a similar experience, sustaining multiple gunshot wounds during an ambush in Iligan City in 2007.
Pantoja said he survived because the gunmen couldn’t get near him as he was armed and fired back. He was under the government’s witness protection program for a time.
“Nothing happened as far as my case is concerned. I have lost my trust in the police’s ability to protect us and in the criminal justice system,” Pantoja said.
Another Iligan-based journalist, Ghiner Cabanday, welcomed the idea of arming journalists but expressed personal reservations, as he worried that his temperament could hinder responsible gun handling.
Others, like Ronald Rufin, president of the Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) chapter in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental, are uncomfortable with the concept of arming media practitioners, particularly those with radio programs.
“If we cannot control irresponsible anchormen who are armed with microphones, how much more if they are armed with guns?” Rufin said.
He voiced apprehension that it might lead to an influx of “abusive broadcasters swaggering with guns on their hips.”
Shape up or ship out
Philippine Star correspondent John Unson, who survived an attempt on his life in 1999, is also against allowing journalists to carry firearms.
“Not everyone would become responsible gun owners. We would become another problem for the police,” Unson said.
He asserted that it is the government’s and the police’s responsibility to protect journalists and citizens.
Similarly, Charlito Manlupig, chairman of the non-governmental organization Balay Mindanao, said arming journalists is not the solution.
Instead, Manlupig suggested that “the PNP should intensify their efforts to protect journalists and end the culture of impunity.”
Manlupig added, “If they cannot, then they should all resign for not doing their job.” – Rappler.com