File photo by Maria Tan/Rappler
"We condemn all those deaths and we maintain that the government is taking steps to fulfill its responsibilities. We will investigate that and punish the murderers," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in Filipino during a Palace press briefing.
He was asked for the government's response to the deaths of Ventura, who was killed after saying mass in a Cagayan town on April 29; and Dumaguete-based radio reporter Sestoso who was shot by unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen the day after, April 30. Sestoso died in the hospital on May 1.
Sestoso's death happened two days before World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
Roque stressed that the Presidential Task Force on Media Security is focused on his case. "This is one case we will actively pursue," he said.
There have been 85 various attacks on the media so far under the Duterte administration, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and the Philippine Press Institute said in a pooled editorial released on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.
"From June 30, 2016 to May 1, 2018, these cases include the killing of 9 journalists, 16 libel cases, 14 cases of online harassment, 11 death threats, 6 slay attempts, 6 cases of harassment, 5 cases of intimidation, 4 cases of website attack, revoked registration or denied franchise renewal, verbal abuse, strafing, and police surveillance of journalists and media agencies," they said. (READ: [OPINION] Speak truth to power, keep power in check)
To this, Roque pointed out that less media workers were killed in 2016, improving the Philippines' ranking in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
The Philippines, however, slipped 6 notches to 133rd spot in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, from its 127th rank in 2017, due to Duterte's continued tirades against the media.
Roque also made no mention of the Philippines being named the "deadliest country" in Asia in 2017 by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.