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Statement on fifth anniversary of journalist Marlene Esperat's killing

(CMFR/SEAPA/IFEX) - 24 March 2010 - The Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) issued the following statement on the 5th anniversary of the killing of Marlene Esperat:

FIVE YEARS have passed since Marlene Esperat was killed in Tacurong City in the southern Philippine province of Sultan Kudarat, apparently for exposing corruption in the Department of Agriculture regional office in Cotabato City. It took over two years for her killers to be convicted, but the masterminds who ordered her death have not been tried or even apprehended.

It is not as if the justice system has no suspects. The suspected masterminds are both government employees and have in fact returned to their place of work in the Department of Agriculture (DA) as a result of both the government's indifference and even collusion, since it was their superiors who allowed them to return to their posts. The immediate reason both suspects are not only free but are also at work is the result of a petition they filed before the Court of Appeals asking that the warrant of arrest issued against them be suspended, and which the Court granted.

The Esperat killing resonates with the echoes of a larger conspiracy: the fertilizer scam of 2004 in which former DA undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc-joc" Bolante figured prominently, and for which he has not been called to account. Apparently Esperat, by exposing the anomalies in the regional DA, uncovered in 2005 part of the conspiracy that helped assure the so-called election of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo - thus the impunity from arrest and prosecution of the alleged masterminds in her murder.

For so long as these suspected masterminds are not prosecuted, for so long will the Esperat case be among the most severe cases of impunity in the killing of journalists in the Philippines - and for so long will the killers of journalists be encouraged to kill and kill again. That is why it is imperative that the two suspects' petition for certiorari and prohibition asking the Cagayan de Oro Court of Appeals to declare the denial of their motion to dismiss the case against them as a grave abuse of discretion by the Tacurong City RTC judge should be immediately resolved, even as the media and press community continues to monitor developments in the effort to prosecute the masterminds, and to demand justice for Marlene Esperat.

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Southeast Asian Press Alliance

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