Journalist shot dead

New York, September 8, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the recent spate of attacks on journalists in the Philippines. CPJ is currently investigating the murders of three reporters killed during the last three weeks.

In the most recent incident, journalist Juan “Jun” Pala was killed in the southern city of Davao on Saturday, September 6. Pala, a commentator on DXGO radio, was also known as an anti-communist activist. The motive for his murder is unclear.

On Saturday night, unidentified gunmen riding a motorcycle shot Pala while he was walking home with a bodyguard and a friend in Davao City. The journalist, who suffered nine gunshot wounds, was pronounced dead on arrival at the San Pedro Hospital, according to the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR). His companions sustained minor injuries.

Pala had repeatedly been targeted for attack before his death. On April 29, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a taxi carrying Pala, wounding him in the buttocks. Since that attack, Pala has been airing his show “Isumbong Mo Kay Pala” (Tell Pala) from his home, according to CMFR.

In the 1980s, Pala was known for his fiery criticisms of communist rebel groups. At that time, he also served as a spokesperson for an anti-communist vigilante group. In recent years, his radio show has focused more on exposing corruption among local politicians, according to CMFR and press reports.

CPJ continues to investigate other killings
CPJ is also investigating the recent murders of two other radio journalists. On August 19, Noel Villarante, of DZJV radio and the local newspaper Laguna Score, was shot and killed by a gunman outside his house in Santa Cruz City in central Laguna Province.

On August 20, Rico Ramirez, a reporter for DXSF radio, was murdered in San Francisco, a town in the southern province of Agusan del Sur. His body was found with a single bullet wound in his back. DXSF manager Max Tutor told CMFR that Ramirez could have been killed “because of his recent exposés on the crime and drug syndicates operating in the area.”

“During the last three weeks alone, three journalists have been killed in the Philippines,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “The Philippines cannot claim to have a free press as long as journalists are routinely assassinated. The government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo must take immediate steps to protect the country’s journalists and to fully investigate and prosecute these murders.”

For more information on these cases, please see CPJ’s September 2 letter to President Arroyo.