Dear President Arroyo and Chief Justice Puno:
We are greatly concerned by the apparent lack of an effective government response to threats made against Marites Danguilan Vitug, one of the Philippines’ senior and most eminent journalists. Vitug said she believes your intervention will serve as a deterrent to whoever is trying to intimidate her, and, hopefully, to those who try to intimidate other journalists in the future.
According to Vitug, the most recent threat was a stalking incident on March 24. In the days before that she received four menacing text messages that mentioned following her; she said a threatening message had also been sent to her son.
Earlier this week, Midas Marquez, the Supreme Court’s spokesman, told Philippine reporters that he found the threats against Vitug “funny” and “ridiculous.” He also advised reporters, We find it disheartening that the highest judicial institution in the Philippines dismissed these threats. Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court. “I hope it's not a statement to generate sales for the book,” he is widely quoted as having told reporters. This not only insults Vitug but denigrates the reputation of the court.
Vitug told us that Manila police have not been able to trace the source of the threats, but have advised her to take security precautions such as changing her daily travel routes and avoiding public places.
President Arroyo, Chief Justice Puno, as you know, we have long held the Philippines government responsible for the high level of impunity that has left unprosecuted virtually all 61 of the cases of journalists we count as killed in the country since 1992. The fact that a journalist of Vitug’s stature can be threatened in the capital city and that those threats have been callously dismissed by a spokesman for the highest court in the country only further discredits your government and the country’s judicial system.
We urge you to press for a full investigation of the threats against Marites Vitug not only for her safety, but for that of the country’s other journalists, and for the reputation of the Philippines.