Bangkok, November 4, 2019 — Philippine authorities should conduct a fast and thorough investigation into the shooting of journalist Benjie Caballero, determine if the attack was connected to his reporting, and bring the perpetrators swiftly to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On October 30, at about 1:15 pm, unidentified assailants on a motorcycle shot Caballero, a station manager at the Radyo ni Juan network, five times outside his home in the town of Tacurong, in the southern Philippines’ Sultan Kudarat province, according to media reports.
Caballero is in stable condition at the intensive care unit of St. Louis Hospital, where doctors have removed two .45 caliber bullets from his lungs, according to the Philippine Star. Police and soldiers are providing security for Caballero while he is in the hospital, according to local news website Rappler.
“Until the Philippines ends its cycle of impunity, wanton attacks against journalists will continue unabated,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “No stone should be left unturned in identifying, arresting, and prosecuting those behind the attack on journalist Benjie Caballero.”
Caballero had received death threats over Facebook before the attack, though it was not immediately clear if the threats were related to his journalism, a representative of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, a local press freedom group, told CPJ via email. The representative requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the organization.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on November 1 that a team of Department of Justice prosecutors would lead law enforcement investigators in pursuing the case, the Philippine Inquirer newspaper reported.
Caballero also serves as the president of the Sultan Kudarat Task Force on Media Security, a state body tasked with investigating media murder cases, and as a correspondent with the local Remate newspaper, according to the Philippine Star.
Joel Egco, the task force’s co-chairpeson, told CPJ by email that state investigators were pursuing multiple potential motives, including any possible connections with the reporter’s political activities and associations.
Egco also suggested in reports that the attack may have been related to Caballero’s involvement in a local financial business.
According to CPJ’s 2019 Impunity Index, the Philippines has the most unsolved journalist murder cases in the world.