San Pablo, Philippines, August 27, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about the murder of journalist and broadcaster Sonny Alcantara in the city of San Pablo, south of Manila, and calls on the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to ensure a thorough and impartial investigation into the slaying.
Alcantara, 51, was killed when a lone gunman shot him in the forehead near his home as he was riding a motorcycle, police investigators told CPJ. Investigators said that they believe at least one accomplice informed the gunman by cell phone of Alcantara’s departure from his home at about 10 a.m. on August 22.
Investigators told CPJ that they know the identity of the suspected assailant and have circulated a sketch of him. He is believed to be a hired killer.
Police said that they believe it is likely that Alcantara, a newspaper publisher and cable TV commentator, was killed because of his work as a journalist.
“He was a very vocal commentator,” San Pablo police chief Ernesto Cuizon told CPJ. “We can’t discount that he was killed because of his journalism.”
Cuizon refused to speculate on who might have ordered the killing.
Colleagues of the slain journalist gathered with family members in San Pablo today for Alcantara’s funeral. “Sonny was a very hard-hitting journalist,” said Nelson Cornitas, another local publisher. “In my opinion politics was the motive.”
Other journalists attending the funeral told CPJ that Alcantara had recently broken a story on his cable TV program, “Quo Vadis San Pablo,” implicating a local politician in a land swindle. Alcantara was also the publisher of Kokus, a weekly newspaper that covered politics and community affairs.
Family members told CPJ that they do not wish to point fingers at anyone and that they are waiting for the police investigation to run its course.
“Sonny Alcantara is the thirty-ninth journalist killed as a result of his work in the Philippines since democracy was restored there in 1986,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper in New York. “The lack of effective investigation into the killing of journalists in the Philippines calls into serious question the government’s commitment to a free press.”
In May, Edgar Damalerio, a prominent broadcaster and editor, was killed on the southern island of Mindanao. Family members, colleagues of Damalerio, and local government officials have told CPJ that local police authorities have blocked prosecution of the crime.