Crime against ‘a family, media, country, truth’ sparks outrage | Inquirer News

Crime against ‘a family, media, country, truth’ sparks outrage

/ 05:35 AM October 05, 2022

Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa —videograb from Facebook page of Percy Lapid Fire

MANILA, Philippines— The brutal and brazen killing of veteran broadcaster and tough government critic Percival Mabasa, popularly known as Percy Lapid, was widely condemned on Tuesday by journalists, former government officials, lawmakers, and human rights defenders.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said in a statement that the killing “shows that journalism remains a dangerous profession in the country.”

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“That the incident took place in Metro Manila indicates how brazen the perpetrators were, and how authorities have failed to protect journalists as well as ordinary citizens from harm,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday.

Barnaby Lo, president of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap), expressed fear in a Twitter post that Manila-based journalists might be coming under violent attack.

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“I’m not saying we journalists in Manila are on a different plane, but it’s just reality that most media killings happen in the countryside. So, for it to happen to Percy Lapid in a gated village in the big city, it’s just chilling,” Lo said.

The last journalist killed in Metro Manila was tabloid columnist Alex Bacoba who was shot in Quiapo, Manila, in May 2016.

In a statement, Focap, which was established in the early days of the martial law regime of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s late father and namesake, said: “Percy’s murder underscores the threats and risks Filipino media workers continue to face in the country.”

Family in pain

Chilling wails and pained cries could be heard from Mabasa’s house at San Beda Homes in Las Piñas City on Tuesday during a gathering of relatives, friends and sympathizers.

Family members, all wearing black, huddled in grief. Mabasa’s son, Mark Mabasa, demanded justice. “There are six of us who are deprived of a father’s love,” he said.

The family called his killing a “deplorable crime … committed not only against Percy, his family, and his profession, but against our country, his beloved Philippines, and the truth.”

“Percy is beloved by many and highly respected by peers, fans and foes alike. His bold and sharp commentaries cut through the barrage of fake news over the air waves and social media. We demand that his cowardly assassins be brought to justice,” his family said in a statement shared by his brother Roy Mabasa, also a veteran journalist.

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Police said the broadcaster was shot twice inside his car near his home by an assailant who rode a motorcycle driven by another man. (See story on this page.)

Mabasa’s “Lapid Fire” vlogs, which received thousands of engagements online, revealed his gritty commentaries against government policies and abuse of power, red-tagging, historical revisionism, misinformation and extrajudicial killings in the drug war during former President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

‘Brazen deception’

Former Vice President Leni Robredo said Mabasa’s death was a huge loss at a time when the public was being bombarded with falsehoods.

In a statement, Robredo condoled with Mabasa’s family and said his courage and voice were a “great loss in a time when we’re up against the brazen deception of the Filipino people.”

“Justice must be served for this incident—and for the many incidents of journalist killings. Violence and intimidation of the press have no place in a society that’s truly free,” she said.

During the presidential elections, Mabasa defended Robredo from accusations that she had links to Jose Maria Sison, the founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Former opposition Sen. Sonny Trillanes IV, also a fierce critic of Duterte, said Mabasa’s voice “inspired Filipinos to stand up for what is right.”

ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro called on Congress and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the “systematic harassment and killings” of critics of the Marcos and Duterte administrations, like Mabasa. She said these were becoming “worrisome.”

“Indeed, the culture of impunity is worsening in the country,” Castro said.

Castro lamented that in the Philippines, “justice is often for the rich and powerful, while you are Red-tagged and attacked if you ferret out the truth.”

The CHR on Tuesday said it was already conducting an investigation on its own initiative.

“One episode of media killing is already far too many,” said CHR Executive Director Jacqueline de Guia.

“Journalists, who are primarily responsible for informing the Filipino citizenry of critical information, must be able to work without fear. Any threat or attack to press freedom is a direct threat to people’s right to truth and information,” she said.

‘Hold the line’

Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, denounced the attack on Mabasa as an example of “continuing impunity.”

“Literally silencing critics not only by gagging their mouths but snuffing their lives,” he said. “It is an indictment of how intolerant powerful forces are, how unreliable and perhaps even complicit our authorities can be, and how immature our democracy still is.”

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she was joining Mabasa’s family and friends in their grief and call for justice.

“To our friends in the media, I am with you. We will continue to hold the line with you,” Hontiveros added. “Percy’s killing is meant to hint that if you are critical, you will be silenced.”

Sen. Grace Poe asked the authorities to look into all angles regarding the killing, including his strong stance on the issues affecting the country.

“The killings must be addressed as doing so would usher in greater safety and security of all citizens,” she said.

“No member of the press must feel curtailed and threatened as they do their job,” the senator added.

—WITH REPORTS FROM KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING, ANGEL YABUT, JULIE M. AURELIO, MELVIN GASCON, DEXTER CABALZA AND INQUIRER RESEARCH

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TAGS: Percival Mabasa, Percy Lapid, slain journaists
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