News

September 14, 2020

Motorcycle hitmen gun down Philippine reporter who covered mining

Screenshot from Jobert “Polpog” Bercasio’s last TV broadcast on 9 September 2020 (photo: Balangibog TV - RSF).
On the basis of initially gathered information, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) suspects that a journalist gunned down today in Sorsogon province, in the eastern Philippines, was killed because of his coverage of the mining industry and urges the police to work on this hypothesis.

Jobert Bercasio, also known as “Polpog,” was killed instantly at around 8 p.m. today by five shots fired from an F-16 rifle near his home in the Seabreeze Homes district of Sorsogon City. Witnesses told police he was shot by two men on a motorcycle who immediately made their getaway. The F-16 is an assault rifle used by the US army.

 

A specialist in covering the mining industry, along with other subjects, Bercasio used to work for Bicol Today, a local news website, before launching his own online video outlet, Balangibog TV.  In a programme broadcast every Monday to Thursday, he interviewed viewers by telephone and often denounced deforestation and illegal mining in his region.

 

In his last Facebook post before his murder, Bercasio referred to the presence, near a quarry, of suspicious trucks that did not have the necessary permits and were using false licence plates. He had previously posted photos of these trucks five days ago.

 

Impunity

 

“Given the modus operandi, which is typical of the murders of journalists in the Philippines, everything indicates that those who gunned down Jobert Bercasio were acting on the orders of someone who was annoyed by his reporting,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

 

“We urge the Philippine government to shed light on this case by appointing an independent investigation. It is time to end the impunity that characterizes crimes of violence against media personnel in the Philippines.”

 

Cornelio “Rex” Pepino, a radio journalist who was gunned down in May in Dumaguete City, in the central province of Negros Oriental, was probably targeted because of his coverage of local bribery and corruption related to illegal mining.

 

The Philippines is ranked 136th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index, two places lower than in 2019.