Malacañang promises justice for slain priest, journalist
Malacañang on Thursday denounced the murder of a Catholic priest in Cagayan province and a radio broadcaster in the Visayas earlier this week and promised justice for the victims.
The government will not forget the murders and will prosecute those responsible for the heinous killings, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
“We condemn all killings and I assure you that the government is taking steps to fulfill its responsibility to investigate, try and punish the killers,” he said.
Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura, 37, had just offered Mass on Sunday at the gymnasium of Barangay Pina Weste in Gattaran town when he was shot twice by an assailant.
In December last year, retired priest Marcelito Paez, 72, was shot dead by unknown assailants in Jaen, Nueva Ecija, after he helped facilitate the release of a political prisoner.
Broadcaster Edmund Sestoso, 50, was shot by two men on a motorcycle on Monday in Dumaguete City, right after his morning public affairs program over DYGB-FM radio.
The former chair of the Dumaguete chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) died a day later from five gunshot wounds.
In a statement, the NUJP said Sestoso was the ninth journalist killed after President Duterte took office and the 182nd since 1986.
Roque said the investigation of the newsman’s murder would be prioritized by the Presidential Task Force on Media Security headed by Undersecretary Joel Egco.
Attacks against media
Roque downplayed claims that attacks against media workers have worsened under the Duterte administration.
“I dispute that. When it comes to killings, it has really gone down in the Philippines, and the Philippines’ rank on the list of most dangerous places in the world for journalists has gone down,” Roque said.
But the New York-based Human Rights Watch on Wednesday said “the increasingly hostile environment” for the Philippine media led to the downgrading of the country’s ranking in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, from 127 to 133 out of 180 countries.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Thursday said seeking justice for Sestoso was personal to him.
“Edmund was a close friend. I felt devastated (by his death),” Andanar said in Davao City. — WITH A REPORT FROM ALLAN NAWAL
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