No apologies, Duterte tells journalists

Incoming Philippine president unmoved by their call to boycott him, says it’s good if they disappear 

MANILA–President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte has refused to apologize amid international backlash over his callous statements justifying killings of journalists in the Philippines.

Rodrigo Duterte

Rodrigo Duterte

“No apologies,” Duterte said at a press conference in response to the call of international media welfare and press freedom advocate Reporters Without Borders that he should apologize over his statements on media killings.

“Not only are these statements unworthy of a president but they could also be regarded as violations of the law on defamation or even the law on inciting hatred and violence,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“We also urge the media to boycott the Duterte administration’s news conferences until the media community gets a public apology,” RSF added.

Duterte was unperturbed by the call to boycott him.

“It will be good if you will disappear. Go ahead, boycott me. I am urging you [to] make this trip your last to Davao City. I do not care if no one is covering me,” Duterte said adding that he hates publicity.

“I was saying, you idiots, do not threaten me. I said I’m ready to lose the presidency, my honor or my life. Just do not f… with me,” he added.

The feisty Mayor and incoming Philippine President said reporters can just cover him through the state television network and through the government website.

Duterte has been at the receiving end of criticisms after saying that most of the journalists who were killed are corrupt.

“Just because you’re a journalist doesn’t mean you’re exempted from assassination if you are a son of a b…. Let’s be frank, the victims did something. They won’t kill you if you’ve done nothing wrong,” he said.

According to Duterte, there are three kinds of journalists in the Philippines: first, the crusaders who are after the truth.

“Sometimes they hit big business or those who cannot not tolerate the truth being exposed to the public; and they do not accept money…what is very important to them is their profession and telling the truth to the whole world,” he said.

The second kind of journalists are the mouthpieces who speak with vested interests.

“It could be mining, it could be anything, something which is an agent for whatever, and those engaged in businesses and enterprises which need to be defended. They are called the publicists and the PROs (public relations officers),” Duterte said.

The third kind are what he called as the lowlife, the “vultures of journalism” who extort money from news subjects.

He said many of those in the third category are being killed.

“They can die for all I care,” he said.

“These are the guys whose greed is unlimited. So they are paid now, then they ask for more and if there’s nothing coming their way, they talk more, they destroy people and family – and they die,” Duterte explained.

He said he had his share of experience where journalists asked him for favors and money.

“You think too much of yourselves…There’s always a paid hack. It’s not only in other professions. Don’t ever think you are in a field of purity,” he said.

“Do not ever think that I am here to beautify a journalist. That’s not my business. In the matter of killings (of journalists), it happens everywhere,” he said.

In any of the three categories, there are risks involved and one cannot send all law enforcers to protect all journalists. Media killings cannot be stopped by the government alone. Media organizations should polish their ranks, he said.

Last February, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) had placed the Philippines as one the world’s deadliest countries for journalists. It was second only to Iraq.

According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), 174 journalists have been killed in the Philippines since 1986. However, only 10 people were convicted.

On November 23, 2009, 32 journalists were ambushed in Maguindanao in southern Philippines. Over a hundred suspects were arrested following that incident. The related trial is still going on.

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