Gunmen kill Philippine radio broadcaster

BenarNews staff
Gunmen kill Philippine radio broadcaster National Union of Journalists of the Philippines members gather in suburban Quezon City to denounce the killing of radio commentator Percival Mabasa, better known as Percy Lapid, Oct. 4, 2022.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

Gunmen on a motorbike in Metro Manila shot dead a radio commentator who had criticized President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his predecessor, colleagues and police said about the latest in a long line of killings of journalists in the Philippines.

Percival Mabasa, better known as Percy Lapid to his listeners at the DWBL radio station where he worked as a political commentator, was killed in the Monday night attack as he drove his car toward a gated community in Las Pinas city, said Col. Jaime Santos, the local police chief.

The victim was the fourth Philippine journalist to be gunned down in 2021.

“Based on the CCTV footage that we’ve gathered, we saw that there was this motorcycle riding-in-tandem (attackers) who approached and fired upon the victim, after which they fled to an unknown destination,” Santos said. 

Police were still trying to pin down a motive.

“We cannot discount the possibility that this was a premeditated attack launched by this (team) riding in tandem. The situation then was very, very quick,” Santos said, adding that a task force has been set up to investigate and to determine the motive for the killing. 

The Southeast Asian nation ranks among the most dangerous countries for journalists worldwide. Dozens have been killed with impunity since the dictatorship of Marcos’ late father, Ferdinand E. Marcos, more than 36 years ago.

Mabasa’s colleagues said the attack could be related to his work, noting he hosted a program where he often attacked alleged government corruption. 

“Lapid, host of ‘Lapid Fire’ on DWBL 1242, had been critical of the Duterte administration as well as some personalities in and policies of the [new] Marcos administration,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said in a tweet.

His brother, Roy Mabasa, a journalist and a former president of the National Press Club, said the family would let police finish its investigation, but said the attack clearly was due to his work. 

Separately, the Mabasa family issued a statement about the killing, the second case of a journalist being slain since Marcos took office and succeeded Rodrigo Duterte as president at the end of June. 

“We are deeply saddened and angered by the brutal and brazen killing of fearless broadcaster, father and husband, brother and friend, Percy Lapid,” the statement said. “We strongly condemn this deplorable crime; it was committed not only against Percy, his family, and his profession, but against our country, his beloved Philippines and the truth.” 

Family members grieve the death of journalist Percival Mabasa at their home in Las Pinas city, Philippines, Oct. 4, 2022. [Jam Sta Rosa/AFP]

Mabasa’s commentaries were often “bold and sharp” as he sought to counter fake news spread on air as well as on social media. 

“We demand that his cowardly assassins be brought to justice,” the family said.

Former Vice President Leni Robredo, who lost to Marcos in the May presidential election, condoled with the Mabasa family and said the killing was another blow against countering the spread of fake news, which observers and analysts here have blamed for contributing to her loss. 

“Justice must be served quickly, not just for this murder, but also against the many cases of killing of our journalists,” Robredo said in a statement via Twitter.  

“In a truly free society, there should be no space for violence against our journalists,” Robredo said. 

Media react

Mabasa’s colleagues called on the government to speed up its investigation into the killing, which they said underscored how journalism remains a dangerous profession in the Southeast Asian country.

The NUJP noted that Mabasa’s recent commentaries included one aired on YouTube that explored the dangers of “red-tagging” – the military’s practice of accusing anyone of being a sympathizer or communist insurgent without evidence.

Mabasa had also hit out against a perceived attempt by Marcos family supporters to distort history, and had offered stinging criticism of Duterte’s war on drugs that left thousands dead.  

“The killing shows that journalism remains a dangerous profession in the country. That the incident took place in Metro Manila indicates how brazen the perpetrators were, and how authorities have failed to protect journalists as well as ordinary citizens from harm,” the NUJP said.

In September, radio broadcaster Rey Blanco was stabbed to death in Mabinay town in Negros Oriental province.

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), meanwhile, said the killing “underscores the threats and risks Filipino media workers continue to face in the country.

“We urge government authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice and put an end to the killings of media practitioners,” said FOCAP, which represents journalists and others working for international news entities.

Meanwhile the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based press freedom watchdog group, also deplored the killing of Mabasa. 

“The killing of radio journalist Percival Mabasa once again shows the Philippines remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. must end the culture of impunity that surrounds the killing of Filipino journalists. This cannot continue as business as usual.” 

Last year, the Philippines ranked seventh in the world on CPJ’s annual Impunity Index, which is used to measure and compare countries where journalists are murdered and the perpetrators go free.

President’s office comments

During his campaign and since taking office, Marcos has not spoken out against any member of the media. He has sought to avoid interviews with major news entities in favor of vloggers and bloggers sympathetic to his family.

Hubert Guevara, the president’s senior deputy executive secretary, said Marcos was concerned about the latest killing, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency.

“The Office of the President, particularly PBBM, is concerned of what had happened to Percy Lapid. In fact, we have been instructed to take a look at the conduct of the investigation on the ambush on him last night,” Guevara said, using an acronym for Marcos.

Duterte, in contrast, took a confrontational stance against media critics and at one time said: “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch.” 

Duterte’s allies in Congress voted against renewing a 25-year license for ABS-CBN Corp., the country’s largest television network that reported on the unwarranted deaths in his drug war.

In addition, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, whose Rappler online news portal also reported on the drug war, was convicted of cyber libel but is free pending an appeal. 

Basilio Sepe in Manila, Jojo Riñoza in Dagupan city, Jeoffrey Maitem and Froilan Gallardo in Cotabato city, contributed to this report.


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