New York, December 26, 2007 — The Philippine government today announced that it has identified a witness in the slaying of radio broadcaster Ferdinand Lintuan on Monday. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to ensure that the case is aggressively pursued in order to bring Lintuan’s attackers to justice.
Lintuan, 51, and the father of four children, was shot in his car by two helmeted men on motorcycles as he was driving his car in downtown Davao on Mindanao Island after leaving DXGO radio station, an AM station owned by the Manila Broadcasting Company, where he worked. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Lintuan was well known for his criticism of local politicians in Davao, the largest city in the southern Philippines.
Police told local reporters they do not yet have a motive for the killing, but many journalists in the Philippine media are speculating that Lintuan’s allegations of corruption at a local development project called “People’s Park” might have angered local powerful figures. Lintuan was a “blocktimer”—a radio personality who leases airtime from station owners—at DXGO for about three months, according to the regional English-language daily Sun Star, where he was a columnist.
Today The Manila Times quoted Arroyo’s Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as saying local police have a 15-year-old witness to the shooting and is seeking the parents’ permission to interview the child.
“Too many times we have seen local officials fail to follow through with aggressive investigations and prosecutions,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Assailants think they can kill journalists with impunity in the Philippines. President Arroyo should use all her influence to ensure that Lintuan’s case becomes a new model to follow—one in which the killers of a journalist are caught, tried, and convicted.”
The Times also reported that Lintuan’s relatives and journalists are calling for an independent probe into the killing and for the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila to send a team to Davao to handle the case, instead of the local police. More than 1 million pesos (US$24,000) has been offered by the government and opposition politicians for information leading to an arrest in the case.
According to CPJ’s database, 32 journalists have been killed for their work since 1992 in the country. As in the case of Lintuan, almost all were killed by small arms and almost all were involved in reporting on local crime, corruption, politics, or human rights. There have been convictions in only two of those cases, that of Marlene Garcia-Esperat and Edgar Damalerio.