New York, December 21, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Philippine authorities to vigorously prosecute two suspects who have been arrested in connection with the 2001 shooting death of Philippine radio reporter Rolando Ureta.
According to the National Union of Journalists, Philippines (NUJP), and local media reports, Jessie Ticar surrendered to police on Tuesday, after he learned that fellow suspect Amador Raz was captured by police on November 26.
In a dramatic moment, Ticar announced that he planned to surrender while doing an on-air interview at the same station in Aklan—DYKR—where Ureta had been program manager when he was shot. Local media reports said he asked police to arrest him at his lawyer’s office, which they did. Both men deny involvement in the shooting.
“These arrests are an opportunity for the government to begin to reverse an alarming level of impunity for the killers of journalists in the Philippines, but in order to do so the government must devote the resources necessary to allow a vigorous prosecution,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Our research shows that more than 85 percent of the killings of journalists go unprosecuted around the world, and the Philippines is one of the worst offenders.”
Ureta was riding his motorcycle when he was shot by two men, also on a motorcycle, in Aklan province on the Philippines’ southernmost major island, Mindanao, on January 3, 2001. CPJ’s report of his death in 2001 noted that police estimated that he was killed within an hour of leaving the radio station, where he had just hosted “Agong Nightwatch,” his evening radio program. Ureta, a well-known figure, was apparently murdered as a result of his radio commentaries, which included pieces about local government corruption and police involvement in the drug trade. It is not clear if his assailants were acting on their own initiative or under orders from someone else.
A murder case was filed on September 24, 2004, against Ticar and Raz, but all charges against the two were dropped in December 2004 despite the objection of Ureta’s family. The Philippine National Police filed an appeal to have the complaint reinstated, which led to their rearrest now, three years later.
According to CPJ’s database, Ureta is one of 32 journalists who have been killed for their work since 1992 in the country. 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.