Philipines: CPJ calls for probe of killing of journalist

New York, April 4, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for an immediate and full investigation into the shooting death today of part-time newspaper editor and columnist Orlando Tapios Mendoza. Philippine media reports and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) said Mendoza was shot several times by unidentified men as he was returning home in Tarlac, 65 miles (110 kilometers) north of Manila. It is not clear if he was killed for his work as a journalist.

Mendoza, 58, reported and edited for small local newspapers— the Tarlac Profile and Tarlac Patrol— but also held a position in the local government involved in resolving land disputes. Before he became a journalist in 1998, he was responsible for implementing the government’s land reform program. Land ownership claims are often highly contested and result in animosity in the Philippines.

According to CMFR, Mendoza had been sued for libel in March by a local faction of the Philippine Guardian Brotherhood, a non-official organization for members of the military. Some of his recent reporting had been highly critical of the group. The libel case was dismissed by a local court in late March, CMFR said.

“We call on the authorities to quickly investigate and bring to justice Orlando Mendoza’s killers,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director. “Too often murders—whether of journalists or others—go unsolved in the Philippines. Without a vigorous police response, backed up by the national government if necessary, Orlando Mendoza’s murder will contribute to this climate of impunity.”