Group: Aquino admin a failure in fight vs impunity

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

THE killing of a tabloid reporter in Cavite last Sunday is yet another proof of the Aquino administration's failure to put to an end to impunity targeting journalists, a group said Tuesday.

"Activists, advocates and journalist have been shouting themselves hoarse all this time, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears," said lawyer Romel Regalado Bagares, executive director of Center for International Law (Centerlaw), a non-profit group dedicated to the promotion of free expression in the Philippines and Asia.

Rubylita Garcia, a correspondent for Remate, was gunned down by two men in front of her family. She died in a hospital while undergoing treatment.

Quoting a lone witness, police said the gunman is a male, more or less 30 years old, six feet in height, of medium build, fair complexion and has tattoo in the arms.

The chief of police of Tanza town in Cavite was relieved from his post following the incident.

Chief Superintendent Jesus Gatchalian, Calabarzon (Calamba, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) police director, said he ordered the administrative relief of Superintendent Conrado Villanueva to ensure that he will not be able to influence the ongoing investigation.

Prior to her death, Garcia told her 28-year-old son, Tristan, that Villanueva was the possible mastermind behind her attack.

But Villanueva denied any involvement in the murder although he admitted that he had a "misunderstanding" with Garcia prior to the incident.

Villanueva said that Garcia along with two other reporters visited the Tanza police station last April 2 while he was in a meeting with some members of the Muslim Community.

Garcia allegedly got irked when she heard Villanueva say that he did not know them. She confronted the police officer and said it was "impossible" for Villanueva not to know her.

However, to avoid argument, Villanueva rephrased his statement and said "maybe I just can't recall where we met."

The authorities are in hot pursuit of the suspect, having activated a Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) dubbed "Task Force Ruby."

Investigators are eyeing work-related and personal grudge as among the motives behind Garcia's killing.

If her death proves to be work-related, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) will be the 20th journalist who died in the line of duty under the Aquino administration and the 160th since 1986.

Bagares said the latest killing only showed that the Philippine government has breached and continues to breach its obligations under international law.

"Effective remedy means the government promptly investigating, prosecuting and putting behind bars the people behind these killings," he said. "Yet it is clear killers are undeterred; why should they –if they don’t see anyone actually being prosecuted and convicted for the killings?"

Centerlaw represents in proceedings filed with the UN Human Rights Committee against the Philippine government the families of five murdered journalists from Mindanao whose cases have remained unresolved. (With Third Anne Peralta/Sunnex)

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