Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos has offered a P500,000 reward for any information that will lead to the arrest of those responsible for the murder of veteran broadcaster Percival Mabasa, also known as Percy Lapid.
“I’m taking this on my own as a family friend. I’m offering P500,000 of my own money for any information that can help us,” he said.
Mabasa’s brother, Roy, who is also a journalist, welcomed the reward offer.
“It is good they are offering a reward because that will help to hasten the processes of investigation,” he said.
Police are using CCTV footage to identify the two killers of Mabasa, who was gunned down in Las Piñas City Monday night.
The city government on Wednesday vowed justice for the slain journalist and expressed condolences to his family.
“The killing of journalists is a direct attack on press freedom and curtails people’s right to truth and expression. The Las Piñas City Police have formed a special task force to immediately investigate this heinous crime,” it said.
“We extend our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the bereaved family and vow to bring justice for Percy,” it added.
Mabasa was shot dead by two men on his way home in Barangay Talon Dos, Las Piñas City at about 8:30 p.m. Monday.
Mabasa was the host of the online broadcast program “Lapid Fire” at DWBL 1242 and a columnist for Hataw.
The Commission on Human Rights is now conducting an investigation into Mabasa’s murder.
“CHR stands with the media community in denouncing this violent crime and violation of the right to life. Journalists are essential in upholding democracy and demanding accountability in any society,” it said.
“We have also repeatedly underscored the crucial need to ensure a safe and unimpaired media environment in order to amplify the voices of the most marginalized sectors and to foster balance in communicating the nation’s state of affairs. Journalists, who are primarily responsible for informing the Filipino citizenry of critical information, must be able to work without fear. Any threat or attack to press freedom is a direct threat to people’s right to truth and information. Similarly, allowing multiple diverging views to flourish is an important facet of a working democracy and, thus, needs to be protected,” he added.
Mabasa was critical of the policies of the Duterte and Marcos administrations.
He has been also critical of “red-tagging”—accusing someone of being a communist sympathizer—as well as online gambling operations and misinformation around martial law, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
“One episode of media killing is already far too many. As such, we urge the government, particularly our law enforcement officers, to bring the perpetrators to account. We also call on the public to advocate for the importance of journalism in maintaining peace, cultivating unity, and advocating justice for all,” the commission said.
Abalos said his agency and the Philippine National Police are committed to delivering justice to the family of the slain radio broadcaster.
“We guarantee the Lapid family that the government does not turn a blind eye to this heinous act,” Abalos said.
On Wednesday, PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. and some officials from the National Bureau of Investigation visited the wake of Mabasa at the Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque City, and talked with the family.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Mabasa is the second journalist killed under the Marcos administration.
The United States on Wednesday joined other countries in calling on the government to arrest Mabasa’s killers.
The US embassy’s statement came after the governments of Canada and the Netherlands, through their embassies in Manila, warned against the “chilling effect” that Mabasa’s murder would have and called on the government to hold the perpetrators to account.
”Freedom of expression is essential to building the future the people of the Philippines want and deserve,” the US embassy said.
“Gravely concerned” about the journalist’s killing, Canada and the Netherlands, which co-chairs the Media Freedom Coalition in the Philippines, issued a joint statement on Tuesday that also called on the government to ensure a “safe environment” for journalists.
This means journalists should be able to ”carry out their work without fear for their lives and safety.”
“Journalist killings strike at the very core of media freedom and can create a chilling effect that curtails the ability of journalists to report news freely and safely,” they said.
The statement was supported by other Western countries, particularly France, United Kingdom, Denmark, and the delegation of the European Union, which is composed of about 27 countries as member states.
The French Embassy in Manila said it ”reaffirms its resolute, unwavering commitment to the freedom of the press, freedom of speech and protection of journalists.”
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said the prevailing culture of violence and impunity was a serious challenge to the Marcos administration.
He noted that the killing of veteran broadcast journalist Mabasa was a yet another sign that the culture of violence and impunity continued.
“We condemn this act of violence. This is a challenge to the Marcos administration,” Pimentel said in a statement on Wednesday.
“I call on the authorities to resolve the killing of Percy and a number of unresolved killings of journalists, lawyers, and judges, as well as of ordinary people,” Pimentel said.
“Let’s put an end to this culture of impunity. The government should create a safe environment for journalists and the rest of our citizens,” he added.
Pimentel said that the veteran broadcast journalist’s death only validates what the Global Impunity Index had earlier warned: the Philippines is one of the deadliest countries for journalists.
Based on the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranking in 2021, the Philippines was ranked 7th among the worst countries for journalists, having too many unresolved killings of the members of the press.
Pimentel noted that based on CPJ, there were at least 13 unresolved killings of journalists over the past 10 years.
Senator Robin Padilla, chairman of the Senate committee on public information and mass media, demanded swift resolution to Lapid’s case.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said the killing of journalists, including Mabasa “will not silence them.”
“Percy’s death, and all the deaths of all other journalists before him, will never silence us,” Hontiveros said.
“This is a brazen attack on press freedom. But this also demonstrates the inherent power of speech and truth-telling,” she said.
She remembered Mabasa as a “strong dissenting voice that made sure government officials did not become too comfortable with power.”
His assassination, she said, sends a signal that critics will be silenced.
“To our friends in the media, I am with you. We will continue to hold the line with you,” the opposition senator said.