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‘Total war vs media in defense of drug war’

/ 12:34 AM September 03, 2016

During the Aug. 22 Senate hearing, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano insinuated that media have been blowing up the rash of killings that have accompanied the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs or, worse, that they have embarked on a campaign to tarnish the image of the present dispensation.

The senator from Taguig protests too much.

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Ironically, Cayetano’s allegations that media have been playing loose with the numbers have been dispelled by no less than Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa. The Philippine National Police’s top honcho presented statistics showing that, if media have erred in counting the cost of the drug war, it is by being on the low and not on the high side as the senator insinuated.

Dela Rosa said that the death toll from July 1 to Aug. 15 was 665 in police operations while 899 others are “under investigation,” including the vigilante-style killings where the bodies of the victims were found all too regularly on streets, wrapped in tape and/or with placards hung from their necks, noting their alleged crime.

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In that same hearing, Dela Rosa also said that as of that day, the death toll had risen to 1,779 (712 in police operations, 1,067 allegedly by vigilantes), slightly more than a thousand of these “under investigation,” or—going by his own figures—a jump of more than a hundred in a week’s time.

The good senator also singled out two media outfits—ABS-CBN and the Inquirer—practically accusing them of wanting to discredit the administration: ABS-CBN by headlining the growing outrage over the killings; the Inquirer with its “Kill List.”

But what would Cayetano have the media do? Play blind as the bodies pile up, and go along with the canard that the victims, including the innocent—and, yes, there have been innocent victims—are guilty and thus deserve their fate sans due process, in blatant violation of the very principle of rule of law that this administration claims it wishes to restore?

Sadly, like Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Cayetano also irresponsibly made the claim, without offering an iota of evidence, that media are among those being bought off with drug money, supposedly to put the administration in public disgrace.

We reiterate: Such allegations, without any proof, unjustly cast a pall of suspicion over Philippine media and, in particular, journalists who put their lives in danger for the cause of truth and justice. Much worse, they provide a convenient cover for those who would want to silence independent press and count dedicated journalists as “extrajudicial targets.”

We have no quarrel with Cayetano’s professed desire to rid the country of crime and drugs. This, we do not doubt, is the fervent wish of all Filipinos, regardless of where they stand on the question of extrajudicial killings.

But we do mind it when his zeal drives him to spout careless, nay, baseless accusations that needlessly expose journalists to danger.

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As he himself said, good intentions pave the road to hell.

We call on our colleagues in the media to continue to chronicle the twists and turns in the war on drugs. That may take us to counting or, more importantly, explaining the context of the war’s mounting death toll.

—RYAN D. ROSAURO, chair, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, [email protected]

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Bato dela Rosa, drug war, Vitaliano Aguirre II
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