Manila, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- The assassination of Philippine journalist Jobert Bercasio on Monday night in the central city of Sorsogon marked the 17th killing of a scribe during the tenure of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Bercasio, who specialized in covering deforestation and illegal mining in the Bicol region, was shot four times by two motorcycle-borne assailants while he was riding his two-wheeler and died on the spot, according to a police report published by local media outlets.
“It is alarming that the worsening pandemic has failed to slow, much less stop, efforts to silence the media,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in a statement that attributed Bercasio’s killing to his journalistic work.
Bercasio had worked for national radio broadcaster DZMS and regional newspaper Bicol Today before launching his own program “Balangibog” via Facebook Live.
On his Facebook page, he had alleged an hour before his killing that trucks with fake license plates had been traveling from a quarry area in the city of Bulan.
The NUJP said Bercasio was “the 17th journalist killed under President Rodrigo Duterte, the 189th since 1986.”
It is also the second killing of a journalist this year after the May 5 murder of Cornelio “Rex Cornelio” Pepino, who was shot dead on the same day that broadcaster ABS-CBN was shut down by the authorities.
“We again hail our colleagues in the community of independent Filipino journalists for refusing to be silenced despite the growing dangers. We are independent not because we are allowed to be but because we insist on being independent in the service of the people’s right to know,” said the union.
Nonprofit Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which has put the Philippines at the 136th place out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index and marked it as the most dangerous country in the region for the profession, also denounced Bercasio’s assassination.
“Given the modus operandi, which is typical of the murders of journalists in the Philippines, everything indicates that those who gunned down Jobert Bercasio were acting on the orders of someone who was annoyed by his reporting,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
Since Duterte came to power on June 30, 2016, the country had until last week witnessed 172 attacks on the press, including 16 assassinations, 33 acts of intimidation, 10 arrests, 12 violent assaults, and 17 libel lawsuits, according to a joint study by the NUJP and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. EFE-EPA