Campus journalists mark 40 days after the killing of Palawan broadcaster
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY – Through a candle lighting ceremony, around a hundred campus journalists gathered here 6pm Friday to mark 40 days after the killing of Palawan broadcaster and environmental advocate Dr. Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega.
Led by the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and students from the Palawan State University (PSU), calls were resounded to demand justice for Dr. Ortega and all victims of political killings in the country.
Campus journalists from the National Capital Region staged a simultaneous candle lighting ceremony in Boy Scout Circle, Tomas Morato, Quezon City.
Dr. Ortega was a hard-hitting radio commentator and provincial coordinator for the ABS-CBN foundation. He was a staunch critic of large-scale mining in the province and often exposed in his radio programs the harsh effects of mining to the province’s environment, the people’s health as well as rampant corruption among local moguls and politicians .
On January 24, at around 11am, Dr. Ortega was shot point blank by a lone gunman at the streets of Puerto Princesa right after his radio commentary. He was doing his leisure of checking an ukay-ukay shop when he was killed. Preliminary investigations point that the killing is allegedly connected to a former governor of Palawan. One thing is clear however: his involvement to put an end to large-scale mining in the province cannot be discounted for his brutal killing. Until today, justice has not been served to Dr. Ortega’s family and friends.
“As campus journalists, we are deeply troubled with how our fellow journalists in the professional field are continuously murdered in our supposedly democratic society. If indeed this country upholds genuinely the people’s freedom of expression, we demand an end to the prevailing impunity and stop the killings of state critics!” Rogene Gonzales, CEGP Southern Tagalog Chairperson said. He also stressed the vital role of campus journalists to expose mining and other environmental issues in their local community.
This weekend, the CEGP organized a gathering of campus journalists in Palawan not only to train the technical skills of members of student publications but also to uplift their social awareness and involvement in current issues in the country. Campus publication from Palawan were united in principle to form a resolution for Dr. Ortega.
“Alongside our plight for quality and accessible education, genuine campus press freedom and upholding students’ democratic rights, we vow to continue the struggle in search for justice for Dr. Ortega and all victims of human rights violations in the Philippines,” Allan Jay Javier, Editor-in-Chief of The Pioneer, official student publication of PSU-Main stressed. Javier added that campus journalists of Palawan will be active advocates against mining and will hold discussions, events and contribute for the ongoing 10 million signature campaign against mining in Palawan.
Dr. Ortega is the 142nd victim of journalist killings in the post-EDSA era and the 2nd slain journalist under the Noynoy Aquino administration. He is also the first environmental advocate killed this year and 37th since 2001. Twenty eight among the environmental advocates killed are anti-mining activists.
In connection to this, CEGP slammed Aquino’s policy of Private Public Partnership which further allows Philippine natural resources to be plundered by foreign mining companies added to the already flawed Mining Act of 1995. “The Aquino government’s favorable stance on foreign investors transacting with local power-holders apparently leads journalists to actively expose these crucial issues to the people. And with the current culture of impunity, these journalists are continuously being killed,” Gonzales stressed.