Reporters Without Borders today condemned the acquittal on 6 March of former police officer and village chief Ephraim Englis on charges of masterminding the murder of journalist Ely Binoya on 17 June 2004.
A regional court in the southern city of General Santos found there was insufficient evidence against Englis but it rejected a request for the acquittal of a second suspect, Alfonso Toquero, who is accused of shooting Binoya.
“This trial is absolutely unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “No witness was questioned by the court, and the family, which was not there when the verdict was issued, took three days to get a copy of the court’s decision. How could it issue such a verdict when the evidence of Englis’s guilt was confirmed by several testimonies and video footage filmed shortly after the murder by the TV station ABS-CBN?”
The victim’s widow, Grace Binoya, told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsability (CMFR): “We are all very saddened by this decision. Please help us.” She added that she intended to turn to the justice department and the supreme court for help.
Ely Binoya case: two suspects turn themselves in
Ephraim "Toto" Englis and Alfonso Toquero, who were wanted for the murder of journalist Ely Binoya, surrendered to the police on 23 August but are insisting on their innocence. Englis, a former policeman and village chief, is alleged by police to have masterminded the murder.
In conclusions issued on 12 July, the prosecutor in charge of the case accused Englis, Toquero and two other persons of participating in the murder. A warrant for their arrest was issued a month later.
Binoya had accused Englis and other local leaders of corruption and Binoya’s wife remains convinced of Englis’ guilt.
Murder of radio journalist who criticised local politicians
Reporters Without Borders today voiced dismay at the murder yesterday in the southern Philippines of Eliseo "Ely" Binoya, a radio journalist known for outspoken political commentary on local Radyo Natin in Malongon, and urged the authorities to do everything possible to ensure that those responsible receive an exemplary punishment.
Binoya, 49, who was also the radio station’s manager, was returning to Malongon from the nearby city of General Santos by moped when he was gunned down by two persons on another moped. He died instantly after being shot him three times in the back.
"Some hit-men have been arrested for previous murders of journalists but the instigators have never been brought to justice," Reporters Without Borders complained in a letter to interior minister José Lima. "As a result, the Filipino judicial authorities allow the instigators to continue silencing their press critics with complete impunity."
The organisation urged the minister to ensure that the police and judicial authorities not only investigate Binoya’s murder thoroughly but also continue carrying out thorough investigations into all the previous murders of journalists.
Binoya had just brought a complaint against three associates of Malongon mayor Teodorico Padernilla, who had often been the target of corruption allegations by Binoya. He said in the complaint that the three men - Kolot Padernilla (the mayor’s nephew), Bobot Toreta and man know as "Balong" - had attacked him physically on 7 June. He also said he had received death threats on several occasions.
General Santos police chief Willie Dangane said the three men were suspects in Binoya’s murder and were wanted by the police.
Binoya is the second journalist to have been killed this year in the Philippines because of his work. Rowell Endrinal of radio DZRC was gunned down by two hit-men on a motor-cycle on 11 February in the central city of Legaspi.
A record number of seven journalists were killed in the Philippines in 2003, the highest total since democracy was established in 1986.