The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines denounces the assassination attempt on Virgilio Maganes, columnist of Northern Watch newspaper and commentator of radio station dwPR in Dagupan City, Pangasinan early Tuesday morning.
We are particularly alarmed that the assassins attempted to disguise the crime as another of the summary executions that have claimed thousands of lives since the Duterte administration launched its bloody war on drugs, leaving a cardboard sign saying, “Pusher Ako Huwag Tularan,” in an obvious attempt to mislead investigators or, as has been the case in most such killings, lose interest in the death of one more “subhuman,” as they have been described by our leader.
Our Pangasinan chapter reports that Maganes slumped down and played dead inside the tricycle he was riding to work after he was wounded on the right shoulder by the motorcycle-riding gunmen. As soon as the assassins fled, he alit to seek help and saw a bystander pick up the cardboard sign and place it inside the tricycle.
Not only did the assassins wish to silence Maganes, they intended to do so in a most insidious way, smearing his name and practically ensuring his death would be just another statistic in the continuing bloodshed.
Had they succeeded, it may have not even mattered that Maganes is not in the list of drug personalities in Barangay San Blas, where he lives because, as has happened all too often, the cardboard sign would have been all that was needed to brand him guilty and, therefore, deserving of death sans due process.
This added dimension to the thankfully unsuccessful attempt on Maganes’ life highlights the increasing risks faced not only by journalists but by most anyone who may be killed with impunity in the name of the government’s war on drugs.
Whatever the motives for wanting to kill Maganes, that the assassins sought to disguise the way they did is clear proof of how the war on drugs, with its obsessive preference for violence and general disregard for human rights and due process, has worsened impunity and led to a general breakdown of the rule of law.
This puts the responsibility for this frustrated murder squarely on the shoulders of this administration, which has created the almost perfect cover for those who wish to silence the press and inflict mayhem on the general populace. And for this it should, and shall, be held accountable.
We demand that authorities in Dagupan City and Pangasinan act speedily to investigate the attempt on Maganes' life and ensure his safety. We likewise call on them to bring an end to the brazen killings, whether drug-related or disguised to appear so, and restore the rule of law and due process.
We call on colleagues to exercise increased care for their safety but not waver in the performance of our duties. We cannot allow ourselves to be cowed into silence for it is the stories of our tumultuous times that we record that will ensure that the truth will prevail.