In the Philippines, three journalists killed in two weeks

Bangkok, August 31, 2015–A radio anchor was shot dead on Thursday in the Philippines, the third journalist to be killed in the country in unclear circumstances in two weeks. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Philippine authorities to thoroughly investigate the killings, identify the motives, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

“The murder of three journalists in two weeks shows how the lack of progress in ending impunity has emboldened those bent on silencing the press in the Philippines,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “We call on President Benigno Aquino to give top priority to swiftly resolving these egregious cases. Until Aquino demonstrates his government is serious about ending the onslaught, the killings will inevitably continue.”

Four unidentified gunmen shot Cosme Maestrado, a news anchor at Radio Mindanao Network’s local dxOC station, at around 10 a.m. on Thursday in front of a shopping center in Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental province, on the southern island of Mindanao, news reports said. The reporter sustained injuries to the head, cheek and abdomen, and was declared dead upon arriving at a local hospital, the reports said.

The gunmen fled on two motorcycles, according to local reports. Police said they found the getaway vehicles in nearby Banadero district, reports said.

Misamis Occidental Police Director Superintendent Archival Macala did not publicly speculate about a motive and said he launched a task group to investigate the killing, according to reports.

Maestrado was known for his hard-hitting commentaries on local corruption and abuse of power, reports said. He had recently criticized a local politician over a purchase of construction equipment, according to a local report that cited the journalist’s brother. He had also served as a media consultant to Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, according to news reports.

Maestrado’s murder was the third in a series of journalist killings in recent weeks. On August 20, unidentified assailants shot dead Teodoro Escanilla, a radio anchor for dzMS radio station and a spokesman for the local Karapatan human rights group, in his residential compound at around 11:45 p.m. in Tadon village, Sorsogon province, according to news reports. News reports citing the journalist’s wife said he was shot while speaking to a man in front of his house.

Escanilla anchored the local “Parmana ng Lahi” program, where he regularly spoke about human rights issues and criticized the military, according to news reports. He was also the chairman of the local Anakpawis political party, reports said.

Investigators recovered empty shells from a .45 caliber pistol and an M-16 assault rifle at the crime scene, the reports said. Sorsogon Provincial Police Spokesman Superintendent Nonito Marquez said a task force had been formed to investigate the killing, according to reports. Authorities had not yet identified a motive for the crime, the reports said.

On August 18, newspaper publisher Gregorio Ybanez was shot dead in front of his house in southern Davao Del Norte province’s Tagum City. Ybanez also served as president of a local media group. Police officials said they were investigating multiple motives in his killing, including his role as a board director of a local power distributor.

The Philippines ranks third on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free. The country is the third most deadly place for journalists in the world, after Iraq and Syria, CPJ research shows.

  • For more on impunity in the killing of journalists, see CPJ’s special report “The Road to Justice.”