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Victory in the fight against impunity as former mayor convicted

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 12 August 2016.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in welcoming the conviction of the killer of Herson 'Boy' Hinolan. The IFJ and NUJP cautiously welcome the conviction; yet urge the government to do more to end the culture of impunity in the Philippines.

On November 15, 2004, Hinolan, the director and commentator for Bombo Radyo in Kalibo, on Panay Island in the central Philippines, died, two days after he was shot several times by unidentified gunmen. Following the murder, two witnesses came forward and testified that the then-mayor of Lezo, Alfredo Arcenio, shot Hinolan. An arrest warrant for Arcenio was activated in 2006; however he eluded arrest for more than 12 months.

On August 11, 2016, the former Lezo mayor, Alfredo Arcenio was found guilty of homicide over Hinolan's murder. Judge Sylva Paderanga of the Regional Trial Court Branch 16 in Cebu City sentenced Arcenio to 14 years in jail and ordered him to pay Hinolan's family PHP 237,500 (USD 5,000) in damages. The homicide conviction was recorded, after the murder charge against Arcenio was downgraded.

Following the sentencing, Hinolan's mother said that the conviction was not enough, and that the charges should never have been downgraded from murder.

Ryan Rosauro, chairperson of the NUJP said: “Even as we welcome the conviction of Arcenio, we, like Hinolan's widow Aphrodite and the government prosecutors who handled the case, believe the proper verdict should have been murder given how, from what we know of the case, the then mayor stalked his target and made sure he was helpless before gunning him down.”

“The conviction does affirm that our united efforts to ensure justice for our slain colleagues can and do bear fruit. At the same time, that it took eight years to secure a conviction, one that leaves much to be desired as to the degree of accountability, reminds us of the daunting task that remains, especially if, as we have time and again experienced, government takes little or scant interest in ensuring justice for the deprivation of people's basic rights,” said NUJP.

In 2012, the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons was established to coordinate all government efforts to address media and extra-judicial killings and related cases. In 2014, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who heads the Inter-Agency, told the IFJ and NUJP that the Agency had 100 priority cases – 54 of which were determined as media-related killings. Hinolan's murder was one of 54 media-related priority cases.

The IFJ said: “While we welcome the conviction of Alfredo Arcenio for the brutal murder of Herson 'Boy' Hinolan in 2004, we support NUJP's call for what should have been a murder conviction. Action for Hinolan's family and colleagues has taken too long; more needs to be done to ensure swift action against the killers of journalists and media workers.”

Global statistics show that nine out of ten journalist killings go unpunished. Impunity in the Philippines is an epidemic, with IFJ research recording more than 180 journalists killed since 1980, making the Philippines the second deadliest country for journalists in the world.

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