Press Release
January 30, 2016


Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero expressed hope that the bill seeking to modernize the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will be enacted into a law in order to strengthen government efforts in stopping deadly attacks on media practitioners and activists in the country.

Escudero issued the statement after the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) released recently its World Report 2016, which included killings of activists and media workers in the Philippines.

As the author of Senate Bill No. 2950--or An Act Modernizing the National Bureau of Investigation, Providing Funds Therefor, And For Other Purposes--Escudero said he is optimistic that the new mandate of the NBI will help the agency solve extra-judicial killings faster.

"I am of the belief that the best deterrent to crime is still the speedy resolution of cases. With a modernized NBI, I am confident that we will be better equipped in fighting and solving crimes," said the leading vice-presidential candidate.

Approved on third and final reading by the Senate on Jan. 25, SBN 2950 defines and categorizes the priority cases that should principally be referred to the NBI, which include extra-judicial/extra-legal killings committed by the state's security forces against media practitioners and activists in the country.

Also among the priority cases under the measure are human trafficking cases in airports; killings of justices and judges; violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act; cases referred by the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council; violation of the Anti-Dummy Law; and violation of commercial, economic, and financial or white-collar crimes.

Escudero, former chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, noted how the country has been severely criticized even in the international community because of numerous unsolved cases of violence against journalists, activists and judges in the country.

"We should not tolerate this culture of impunity in our country because it does not only concern the violation of human rights but it also hurts the country's image among potential investors abroad," he said.

In its 659-page report, the Human Rights Watch said there were at least 13 tribal leaders and tribal community members allegedly killed by assailants often linked to the military or paramilitary groups in the first eight months of 2015.

The international human rights watchdog also labeled 2015 as "another deadly year for Filipino journalists," with eight media practitioners killed in the first 10 months of last year.

The group also noted in its report the lack of resolution to media killings in the country.

"Task Force Usig, a unit created by the Philippine National Police in 2007 to investigate these murders, has not been able to fully investigate most of these killings, mainly due to the lack of witnesses willing to publicly identify themselves and share information with police," Human Rights Watch's said.

"Although the task force has secured the conviction of suspects in eight of the 51 cases it has documented since 2001--a conservative figure since Usig does not classify videographers and producers as 'journalists'--no one responsible for planning and executing such attacks has been arrested or convicted," it added.

Escudero said his bill aims to strengthen the NBI as an institution to make it more responsive to the demands of the times.

"With modern equipment, skilled agents and defined responsibilities, I am confident that the NBI will be in a better position to help our security forces in combating crimes and resolving incidents of extrajudicial killings in the country," Escudero said.

In 2013, the Philippines was named as the third most dangerous country in the world for journalists by the London-based International News Safety Institute just behind the strife-torn Syria and Iraq.

As of June 2014, a total of 145 media workers in the country have been killed in the line of duty since 1986, including at least 33 in the Ampatuan massacre of November 2009, according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.

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