Bernharl Kahil. Image: collective PITIK BULAG
Cartoonist, art teacher and coordinator of the special arts programme at the Lebak National Legislature High School, 27-year-old Benharl Capote Kahil (Ben) was shot dead on Saturday, November 5, 2022 in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat, while returning home on his motorbike
Rappler reports that Lebak city police chief Lt Col Julius Malcontento said Kahil was riding his motorbike when he was ambushed on a road after 10pm
The motive for the killing is unknown and there are reportedly still no clues as to the identity of his killers who shot him several times and finished him off with a bullet to the head.
According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, citing police sources, the cartoonist was alone when he was attacked and eight bullet wounds were found on his body and head. Investigators found nine empty cartridges from a 9 mm pistol, including the one found the morning after the murder at the crime scene.
Various journalists’ and cartoonists’ collectives issued statements of condemnation calling for justice for the cartoonist, such as Cartooning for Peace, which in a note published on its website expresses its sincere condolences to the family and calls for an impartial investigation to shed light on this murder, which tends to illustrate a disturbing and growing culture of impunity and murder in the country.
CfP notes that the cartoonist was known to his peers as a social commentator who used his art to fight disinformation in his country, as Rappler points out
He had won several prizes in competitions organised by the Pitik Bulag collective as part of the #FactsFirstPH campaign against disinformation. Kahil’s drawings highlighted women’s and children’s rights and injustices.
Shortly after the news broke that Benharl had been shot dead, cartoonist ZACH(FB-TW) said: “Devastated by the news. He was mercilessly shot dead last night. His works will live forever. #JusticeForBenharl” and shared some drawings of those drawings which are the ones illustrating this post.
Impunity in the Philippines
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGPN) recalls that, according to CPJ’s Global Impunity Index, there are 14 unsolved journalist murder cases in the country dating from 1 September 2012 to 31 August 2022. The Philippines ranks seventh on this index.
Although the investigation is still ongoing, CEGPN assumes that Kahil is another victim of the culture of violence, abuse and impunity that authoritarian regimes cultivate, especially against truth-tellers.
They add: “Therefore, regardless of the motive for the murder, we join our fellow guild members, the community of cartoonists and journalists, and all freedom-loving Filipinos in calling for justice for Kahil.