Philippine journalist shot, killed in front of wife, daughter

Bangkok, January 6, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the shooting death of Philippine radio commentator and community newspaper publisher Christopher Guarin and calls on authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice quickly.

Guarin, a block time radio broadcaster with Radyo Mo Nationwide and publisher of Tatak News, was shot and killed by unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants on Thursday evening while driving home with his wife, Lyn Guarin, and nine-year-old daughter in General Santos City on the southern island of Mindanao, according to local and international news reports.

The assailants first fired on Guarin’s car at the city’s Purok Sunrise and Naval Subdivision intersection, hitting him in the head and his wife in the arm. According to local press reports that quoted his wife, Guarin then stopped and fled the vehicle on foot but was shot several times by two pursuing gunmen. He was declared dead on arrival at General Santos City Hospital, according to the reports.

Police investigator Gerald Mark Oliver Jubelag told local reporters that Guarin was hit six times by bullets fired from a .45 caliber handgun. Jubelag said the two assailants were unmasked and fled the scene of the crime on a white Honda XRM motorcycle.

“The murder of journalist Christopher Guarin speaks to the Benigno Aquino government’s growing failure to protect journalists and live up to its reform rhetoric,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia Representative. “How many journalists must be killed with impunity before Aquino’s government takes seriously and acts decisively against the threat faced by all journalists across the Philippines?”

While authorities have not yet determined a motive behind the killing, Guarin had received anonymous death threats by text message before his murder, according to his wife and work colleagues quoted in local press reports. Hours before his murder he read on air one of the text-message threats, which warned him against leaving the radio station where he anchored a “block-time” radio program or risk being killed, according to Freddie Solinap, a manager at Tatak News, as quoted in local press reports.

“I could no longer count the number of shots made by the suspects,” Guarin’s wife told the Inquirer newspaper. “But I saw my husband lying on the ground helpless, pleading before the suspects not to kill him. His pleading fell on deaf ears.”

A statement from the media support group Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists said Guarin’s death is “one more indication of the persistence of the culture of impunity that encourages the killing of journalists and media workers in the Philippines.” The country ranks third on CPJ’s global Impunity Index, a quantitative measure of the number of journalists killed for their work without justice worldwide.

Guarin’s death is typical of many killings of journalists in the Philippines. Block-timing is a practice in which a broadcaster leases air time from a radio station and is responsible for bringing in advertising money to cover the program’s expenses. A number of block-time commentators, many with affiliations to local politicians, have been killed in the Philippines, according to CPJ research. Very often the killings come at the hands of assailants on motorcycles.

Guarin, who ran for city councilor but lost at elections in 2010, is the first Filipino journalist to be murdered this year. At least two Philippine journalists were shot and killed in relation to their work in 2011, according to CPJ research. Both were local radio announcers. CPJ is investigating the murders of three other journalists last year, but it is not clear if their deaths were related to their work as journalists. All three were local radio announcers as well.