Broadcaster critically injured in latest Philippine shooting

New York, May 22, 2009–The Philippine government must address a series of shootings that have targeted journalists on the southern island of Mindanao, the latest coming on Wednesday when gunmen critically wounded a local radio broadcaster, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

One of two men riding a motorcycle fired once at Harrison Manalac at about 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, according to local news reports. Manalac was riding his own motorcycle home from his workplace at DXXE Radio in Buug town, Zamboanga Sibugay province, according to the reports. A local hospital was treating Manalac for a gunshot wound to the back, the reports said.

Police Chief Federico Castro told local journalists that police were seeking a motive for the attack. He said Manalac had written outspoken commentaries on local political and community issues, but did he not say whether the shooting was related to those pieces, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Manalac is the fourth radio journalist to be shot on Mindanao this year in unrelated attacks, two of them fatal, according to CPJ research. CPJ is investigating those attacks for a connection to the victims’ work. A fifth attempted shooting took place in the northern province of Abra on May 14, when unidentified attackers fired on print reporter Marjorie Bandayrel-Trinidad through her bedroom window, according to a local press freedom group and news reports. Bandayrel-Trinidad was unhurt. 

Ricardo R. Blancaflor, head of the federal government’s Task Force 211, which investigates extrajudicial killings, told CPJ in a May 1 letter that his group was committed to curbing media slayings. Blancaflor told CPJ Task Force 211 was “vigorous” in its efforts to monitor media killings, and assist the “investigation, prosecution, and immediate resolution of media killings,” including witness protection.

“Five journalist shootings in as many months is a deeply concerning trend,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ deputy director. “We welcome Ricardo Blancaflor’s stated commitment to prosecuting the perpetrators and ask that Task Force 211 seek immediate resolution to these attacks, particularly where they are occurring with such frequency in the southern Philippines.”

Nilo Labares, head reporter at DXCC Radio Mindanao Network, survived emergency surgery following a March attack by two motorcycle-riding gunmen near Mindanao’s Cagayan de Oro City. Labares had been threatened two weeks before the attack, and police told local journalists they suspected his work may have prompted the shooting.

Two gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed Badrodin Abbas in January. Two men in masks also fatally shot radio broadcaster Ernie Rollin in Misamis Occidental province, northern Mindanao, the following month.

Mindanao, the scene of decades-long strife between the military and insurgent groups, is one of the deadliest areas for the Philippine press, according to CPJ research. CPJ launched its 2009 Impunity Index in Manila in March, with the Philippines ranking sixth worst worldwide for unsolved journalists murders. In cooperation with local partners, CPJ’s Global Campaign Against Impunity is seeking justice in journalist murders.