Filipino Journalist's Murder Underscores Country's Hostile Media Environment

Filipino radio journalist Cresenciano Bunduquin was shot and killed by two assailants outside his home on May 31 in the province of Oriental Mindoro. One attacker died after Bunduquin’s son pursued the duo in his car; the other fled the scene and remains at large. The assassination underscores the Philippines’s status as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for members of the press. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Philippines also has a high rate of impunity for those who carry out such attacks. 

Possible motives a familiar story

Investigators have yet to determine a motive for the killing. Bunduquin, like many Filipino journalists targeted for their reporting, focused on local issues, including illegal gambling and an environmental disaster resulting from a large oil spill off the coast of Oriental Mindoro in February. Former president Rodrigo Duterte (2016-22) fostered an especially hostile atmosphere for the country’s media. But the end of Duterte’s presidency has brought little relief; Bunduquin is the third journalist murdered since current President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumed office in June 2022. 

Press freedoms a Canadian concern 

Canada, through a flagship public diplomacy initiative called the Marshall McLuhan Fellowship, has championed the cause of press freedoms in the Philippines for decades. With financial support from Sun Life, which has done business in the country since 1895, the Canadian embassy in Manila has awarded the fellowship annually since 1997 to a Filipino journalist for exceptional reporting on democracy and human rights.  

On May 25, Karmina Constantino, the 2022 fellow, concluded a two-week, multi-city tour of Canada. Constantino’s work has shone a spotlight on the watchdog role of the country’s press — a role she says is often misunderstood by the Filipino public.