Artists, student journos condemn slay of editorial cartoonist

Story by A.J.L.

Artist and student groups condemned the killing of editorial cartoonist Benharl Kahil in Lebak town in Sultan Kudarat Saturday night.

Kahil was riding his motorcycle to his home in Barangay Pasandalan when an unidentified man shot him several times, local media reported.

Campus publication alliance College Editors Guild of the Philippines said that Kahil’s murder is a “renewed threat” against media practitioners and press freedom.

“While the investigation is ongoing, the Guild assumes that Kahil is another victim of the culture of violence, abuse, and impunity cultivated by authoritarian regimes, especially against truth-tellers,” the group added.

Kahil’s death came weeks after the killings of radio broadcasters Rey Blanco and Percy Lapid. Like them, Kahil was also critical of social injustices, particularly with disinformation issues in the education sector.

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines and the Philippine Animation Workers Association also expressed “concern” over the killing of a “young and promising cartoonist” who exposed the ills of Philippine society.

“We call for the urgent probe into the killing of Sir Kahil and to stop the killings of artists who dare to expose the ills of society,” the groups said in their statements.

Kahil’s cartoons advocated against disinformation. One of his last works criticized the historical distortion of the Marcos administration, for which he won his third championship in the annual TAGISAN Editorial Cartoon Contest organized by progressive group Pitik Bulag.

Martial law and disinformation were among the subjects of Kahil’s award-winning cartoons for TAGISAN in previous years. He was also recognized for his cartoons discussing human rights and abuse against women and children at the iChange Komiks competition.

Youth party-list Kabataan said that the attack is a “means to silence youth artists” who voice out dissent. In a Facebook post, Rep. Raoul Manuel called to “end the culture of impunity” that kills journalists.

On Nov. 1, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked the Philippines as the seventh worst country in resolving murders of journalists in the past decade.

The CPJ also reported 14 unresolved cases of journalist killings in the country between September 2012 to August 2022.

Kahil was also a faculty member at the Lebak Legislated National High School (LLNHS) where he taught Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health.

Others who have also shared their condolences were Kahil’s colleagues in the Department of Education-Division of Sultan Kudarat, teachers at the LLNHS and other cartoonists.