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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

JANUARY 11, 2005
Posted: January 27, 2005


A group of armed men torched an ABS-CBN News van in central Manila at around 4:30 a.m. Between five and eight masked gunmen forced members of the eight-person news crew to lie on the ground while they set the van on fire with a Molotov cocktail. No one was injured.

A group identifying itself as "K" claimed responsibility for the attack in an e-mail. According to local news reports, "K" accused ABS-CBN of biased coverage of the presidential campaign of Fernando Poe Jr. and blamed the news network for his defeat in the May 2004 election. Poe, who lost by a narrow margin to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, died in December 2004 of a stroke.

A spokesperson for the National Coordinating Council of Volunteers for Fernando Poe Jr. condemned the attack, and accused political rivals of framing Poe supporters. Police were investigating.

ABS-CBN News has come under attack before. In May 2001, a mob of protesters torched two news vans over alleged bias in the coverage of deposed president Joseph Estrada.

JANUARY 29, 2005
Posted: February 4, 2005

Maximo "Max" Quindao, Mindanao Truck

Gunmen shot Quindao, publisher and editor of the weekly newspaper Mindanao Truck, four times in the chest as he left his office in Mindanao's Tagum City, leaving the journalist severely injured.

Police said that two men on a motorcycle fled after shooting Quindao, 46, just after 9 a.m., according to local and international news reports. Quindao was rushed to Tagum Doctors Hospital and later transferred to Davao Regional Hospital for emergency surgery.

Police did not immediately establish a motive but were investigating the possibility of a personal grudge. Philippine National Police Chief Edgar Aglipay said in a radio interview that police had received information that Quindao was no longer an active journalist, according to Manila Standard.

That assertion, though, was at odds with other public comments, including news reports that quoted Quindao's wife as saying that the shooting might have been in retaliation for her husband's recent columns criticizing a high-ranking public official.

The local chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Quindao's weekly columns criticized poor government services and drew attention to local corruption and illegal logging. Colleagues told NUJP and local reporters that they believed the shooting was work-related.

FEBRUARY 28, 2005
Posted: March 28, 2005

Arnulfo Villanueva, Asian Star Express Balita

Villanueva, 43, a columnist for the community newspaper, was found shot dead on a road in the town of Naic, Cavite Province, just south of Manila. A local village official found his body on the night of February 28, according to the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR).

Villanueva had criticized local officials in connection with illegal gambling, according to CMFR, but police have not yet determined a motive. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating whether the killing was tied to his journalistic work.

MARCH 24, 2005

Updated December 6, 2005

Marlene Garcia-Esperat, Midland News and DXKR


A gunman walked into columnist Marlene Garcia-Esperat's house in the city of Tacurong, and shot her in front of her family. Garcia-Esperat died instantly from the single bullet wound to her head, police told reporters. The gunman and his accomplice escaped from the scene on a motorcycle.

An anti-graft columnist for the newspaper the Midland Review in the southern island of Mindanao, Garcia-Esperat, 45, was under police protection as a result of death threats. Local news reports said that on the day of the shooting, she let her two guards leave early for the Easter holiday.

The Philippine National Police Chief, General Arturo Lomibao told reporters "the motive is work-related as media practitioner." In a radio interview, George Esperat said that his wife had "made many enemies because of her exposés" and that she had received death threats via text message. He also suggested Garcia-Esperat's murder was connected to a corruption story that she wrote, accusing a police officer of involvement in illegal logging activity. Tacurong Police Chief Raul Supiter said that no motive had been ruled out, according to the Philippines-based MindaNews news service.

On April 11, police announced the arrest of four suspects, including an army sergeant. The four were said to confess their involvement in May, according to local reports. Newspapers have reported several possible leads as to the mastermind; those reports included allegations that two officials from the Mindanao Department of Agriculture, Osmena Montaner and Estrella Sabay, plotted Garcia-Esperat's murder. The officials denied the accusations, but one of the defendants, Randy Barua, a former bodyguard for Sabay, and told police that he hired the gunmen at the behest of Montaner and Sabay, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

Murder charges were brought against the two officials, but a judge dismissed them on August 31 because of what he termed insufficient and conflicting evidence. The Esperat family lawyer, Nena Santos, told the Manila Standard that the dismissal was "highly questionable and suspicious," and that it was a "miscarriage of justice." Santos said the judge made the decision the day before being transferred to another court, and the court clerk did not announce the ruling until September 20.

Press freedom groups protested the dismissal of charges against the accused masterminds. The four initial defendants also complained to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Gerry Cabayag, identified as the gunman, said he was afraid of retribution from the two agriculture officials, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

A chemist by training, Garcia-Esperat began her work exposing corruption in the early 1990s. During her tenure as ombudsman for the Department of Agriculture, she filed legal actions against several officials accusing them of graft, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She also spent two years in the witness protection program due to her ombudsman discoveries.

Garcia-Esperat became a full-time journalist in 2004 after growing frustrated with the government's tepid reaction to corruption, she told the Inquirer in an earlier interview. She started hosting a program on local radio station DXKR in 2001, and began her column "Madame Witness" at the end of 2002. Garcia-Esperat was also a longtime source for many journalists.

APRIL 12, 2005
Posted: April 13, 2005

Alberto Martinez, Radyo Natin

Police began searching for two suspects responsible for the attempted murder of radio broadcaster Alberto Martinez, who was shot in the back while on his way home on the southern island of Mindanao.

Police Inspector Alberto Jungaya told local reporters that unidentified gunmen shot Martinez on Sunday night in the town of Osais. Martinez, also a pastor with the Church of God World Mission, was rushed to the hospital and was in stable condition, according to international wire reports.

The Committee to Protect Journalists was investigating whether the shooting was related to Martinez's daily radio show on the local community station Radyo Natin. Police said that Martinez had recently received death threats, and that the shooting could have occurred in retaliation for his anti-corruption themed broadcasts. Martinez, 46, was a "block-timer"; he leased a specific amount of airtime from the local radio station and is responsible for finding advertisers and sponsors. The practice of leasing airtime is controversial because it places economic burdens on broadcasters themselves, instead of on the station owners.

MAY 4, 2005

Posted: May 5, 2005

Klein Cantoneros, DXAA-FM

Cantoneros, a radio broadcaster known for denouncing corruption, died after being shot as many as seven times by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Dipolog City on the southern island of Mindanao. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating the circumstances of the case to determine whether the journalist's murder was connected to his work.

Cantoneros, 32, who frequently criticized local officials for alleged corruption and illegal gambling on his talk radio program on DXAA-FM, was returning home around 1:30 a.m. when he was attacked by as many as three gunmen, according to local news reports.

Cantoneros was clutching his own .45-caliber pistol when he was found, and he appeared to have fired back at his attackers, according to ABS-CBN, quoting police. Cantoneros' colleague, Robert Baguio, told radio DZBB that the journalist identified his assailants before undergoing surgery, according to Inquirer News Service. He died at around 11 p.m.

Cantoneros' colleagues told reporters that the journalist had received several death threats, some by cell phone text message, ABS-CBN reported.

President Gloria Arroyo's spokesman Ignacio Bunye called for a full investigation. "We condemn this [attack] and we expect the Philippine National Police to do its job in investigating this crime," Bunye told DXMM radio, according to Agence France-Presse.

MAY 10, 2005

Posted: May 12, 2005

Philip Agustin, Starline Times Recorder

The editor and publisher of a local community newspaper was shot and killed—the second murder of a journalist in the Philippines in less than one week.

Philip Agustin, editor and publisher of the local weekly Starline Times Recorder, was killed by a single shot to the back of the head late last night in the village of Paltic, about 70 miles northeast of the capital Manila, according to local news reports. Police said that the gunman shot Agustin, 54, through an open window in the victim's daughter's home, then fled on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice.

A special edition of the Starline Times Recorder dedicated to corruption and illegal logging in the nearby town of Dingalan was slated to come out on May 11. Valentino Lapuz, a member of the local council who witnessed Agustin's murder, said in an interview with GMA television that the newspaper's special edition linked local mayor Jaime Ylarde to missing government money. Ylarde denied any connection with Agustin's murder on the same channel, according to Agence France-Presse.

Agustin's family told police that his articles about local corruption and official inaction against the illegal logging trade were the likely motives for his murder, according to the ABS-CBN news Web site. The head of the Philippine National Police, Arturo Lomibao, was traveling to Dingalan to investigate the killing, The Associated Press reported.

MAY 18, 2005
Posted: June 15, 2005

Pablo Hernandez, Bulgar

Hernandez, a self-described "hard-hitting' crime columnist with the tabloid Bulgar (Expose), survived an apparent assassination attempt when he exchanged gunshots with two motorcycle-riding assailants just before dawn in the Valenzuela suburb of Manila. It was the second attack on Hernandez this year; he survived a stabbing at a pool hall by a hired killer in February.

Driving in his car with a companion, Hernandez noticed they were being tailed by a motorcycle. Senior Superintendent Leopoldo Bataoil told reporters that two unidentified gunmen riding on the motorcycle opened fire on Hernandez's car. Hernandez told The Philippines Inquirer that he shot back. The two unidentified gunmen then returned fire and hit Hernandez's car before he pulled over to take cover on the street. The gunmen escaped the scene. Hernandez said he suspects that police are behind both attempts on his life and declined police protection, saying "I don't trust the police right now," according to The Inquirer.

The hired killer arrested in the February attack, Joel Reduca, has confessed that two police officers hired him to kill Hernandez, according to local reports.

Hernandez is now a licensed gun owner, according to Agence France-Presse, and part of a growing trend of journalists arming themselves in self-defense. In May, Hernandez and other police reporters formed a group the Association of Responsible Media (ARMED) to train journalists to defend themselves.

Two days before the shooting, President Gloria Arroyo launched a press freedom fund with almost $100,000 to help fight attacks on the media.

MAY 19, 2005
Posted: June 15, 2005

Allan Sison, DZRH-Dagupan

Sison, operations manager and a program host for the local radio station in Lingayen in the northern Pangasinan province, was leaving a wedding reception at a hotel around 1 p.m. when he heard a shot. When Sison arrived at his truck in the hotel parking lot, he said, he saw a bullet had been fired into the tinted driver's side window.

Sison told local reporters that the shooting could be related to his commentaries. He said that he had seen an official, the subject of his commentaries, near the hotel before the shooting, and that the official had given him dirty looks, according to the Manila Bulletin.

"The assassins may have thought that I was already inside the pickup," said Sison

Lingayen police chief Superintendent Ricardo Zapata confirmed that a suspect had been identified and that he was a local politician, but refused to name him.

Sison told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), a local press freedom group, that he had been receiving threatening phone calls and threats via text message in the days leading up to the shooting.

Local journalists' groups condemned the shooting as an attack on press freedom. "Whether or not the bullet fired at the radio station's vehicle was meant to just scare commentator Allan Sison, or to do away with him, the act, by any language, is a direct assault on media," said the Pangasinan Tri-Media Association.

JULY 3, 2005
Updated: August 10, 2005

Rolando "Dodong" Morales, dxMD

The radio commentator was ambushed and shot at least 15 times by a gang of motorcycle-riding assailants while driving home on the southern island of Mindanao. Morales, who died at the scene, had just finished hosting his weekly program on radio dxMD in General Santos City.

Danilo Mangila, the local police chief superintendent, told reporters that Morales was riding a motorcycle with a companion on a highway leading to the town of Polomolok when eight assailants on four motorcycles stopped him and opened fire at around 6 p.m. The gunmen surrounded Morales and continued shooting even after he fell to the ground, witnesses told police. Morales died at the scene, and his companion was wounded, according to local news reports.

Police compiled a list of possible suspects in mid-July that included several police officers assigned to Polomolok, the Inquirer News Service reported.

Police cited Morales' anti-drug commentaries as the likely motive for his murder, but Chief Inspector Rex Anongos, head of the Polomolok police, told the MindaNews wire service that police had not ruled out personal motives for the killing.

Morales, 43, hosted a weekly block-time program called "Voice of the Village" on Radyo Agong, a Radio Mindanao Network affiliate, and he was known for his tough commentaries, Mangila said. He accused local politicians of corruption and involvement in the illegal drug trade. Morales, who had been broadcasting since 2003, was active with a neighborhood anti-crime task force and would report its findings on the air, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility reported. The ABS-CBN news Web site reported that Morales also accused local officials of involvement in summary executions.

Morales worked as an inspector at the Dole pineapple plantation, and held local office before starting his radio work, CMFR reported.

Morales' wife, Floreta, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that her husband had received several death threats by text message on his cell phone beginning in November 2004 because of his crusade against illegal drugs. She said that he continued to broadcast despite the threats "because it was a public service," and that he worked at the radio station on a volunteer basis.

Emir Bariquit, program director of dxMD Radyo Agong told the Inquirer News Service that Morales was likely killed for his fiery commentary. Bariquit said he saw a threatening letter sent to Morales a few months ago, warning the commentator to halt his criticism of local officials and illegal drugs.

Block-timing is a controversial practice whereby a broadcaster leases air time from a radio station manager and is responsible for bringing in advertising money to cover the expenses of the program. Morales was the seventh block-time radio commentator killed for his work since 2000, according to CPJ research.

JUNE 2005

Posted: July 21, 2005

Jose Jaime Espina, ABS-CBN

Espina, a contributor to the online news site ABS-CBN Interactive and chairman of the Correspondents, Broadcasters and Reporters Association-Action News Service, or COBRA-ANS, received threatening messages on his mobile phone in late June, according to local journalists.

The reporter, based in Bacolod City, provincial capital of Negros Occidental on the northwest coast of Negros, received the threats after an interview at a local radio station, Aksyon Radyo. In the interview, Espina had criticized military actions nationwide and cited the comments of a local military officer, the Visayan Daily Star reported.

The text messages stated that Espina's family would be killed, and that he would have to report their deaths, according to local news reports. Espina was not sure who was responsible for the threats, but believed they were related to his journalism, according to the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.

Espina and a local media group have filed complaints with the police.

JULY 8, 2005
Posted: August 9, 2005

Mei Magsino-Lubis, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Lubis, Batangas correspondent for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, went into hiding after a caller told her that two prisoners from the provincial jail had been released with orders to kill her. The caller suggested that she leave Batangas, the provincial capital of Batangas in the islands of Luzon. The Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility reported that the caller was a "police source" of Lubis.

The warning followed a series of articles that Lubis has written on local corruption, including allegations that the governor, Armando Sanchez, has been involved in illegal gambling. She has also written reports investigating the May 30 murder of a provincial official who was investigating the governor's activities.

AUGUST 2, 2005
Posted: August 9, 2005

Glenda M. Gloria, Newsbreak

A funeral wreath was delivered to the residence of Gloria's mother on the night of August 2, according to a statement released by the Manila-based news magazine. The flowers came with the message, "Condolence from your loving friends." The delivery person identified the sender as a 30-year-old man in a black car.

Gloria, managing editor of Newsbreak, told The Associated Press that the act was "meant to scare the family."

"While we know that threats come with our job, we do not take this lightly," the Newsbreak statement said. Yesterday, the flower shop received a second call requesting that they return to the same address, AP reported.

Gloria is a prominent investigative reporter who has written several recent articles about the Philippine military. She called a military intelligence unit the "number one suspect" in the controversial wiretapping of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. On the recording, which was leaked to the press, Arroyo is heard talking to an election monitor prior to the results of the May election. Based on the recording, opposition lawmakers have filed an impeachment complaint against the president, alleging election tampering.

In the latest issue of Newsbreak, Gloria reported on the alleged participation of some military officers in election fraud in a southern region of the Philippines last year.

JULY 25, 2005

Posted: August 17, 2005

DXVR-FM, Radio Mindanao Network

Jose Galario Jr., mayor of Valencia City on the southern island of Mindanao, ordered the closure of the local radio station, revoked its business license, and threatened to press charges against acting manager Jaos Dignos.

The station filed a lawsuit in response. Judge Josefina Gentiles Bacal granted a temporary restraining order, putting Galario's actions on hold.

Galario had accused the station of violating a city ordinance by maligning him. In a letter to the RMN area manager, James Jadormio, the mayor stated that the station was being used in "a disorderly and unlawful manner."

OCTOBER 4, 2005
Posted October 11, 2005

Danilo Aguirre, Mindanao Bulletin

Aguirre was shot and seriously wounded in General Santos City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao but escaped death because his attacker's gun jammed. Aguirre, a business and features writer for the weekly Mindanao Bulletin, was walking to work with photographer Emmanuel Zaldimar when a hooded assailant shot him from behind with a .45 caliber pistol and then fled on a motorcycle, according to local news reports. Police Senior Inspector Aniano Delco told The Associated Press that the gunman tried to shoot Aguirre again before leaving, but his pistol jammed.

Cel T. Jubelag, publisher of the Mindanao Bulletin, said that unknown men had been following Aguirre and looking for his house over the past few days, The Manila Times reported. Jubelag said that Aguirre, 25, had only been with the paper two months and had not reported on anything controversial, although the newspaper had been investigating corruption in the judicial system, according to the AP.

Aguirre was wounded in the spine and stomach by a single shot. Zaldimar suffered minor injuries, news reports said.

NOVEMBER 18, 2005
Posted: December 2, 2005

Ricardo "Ding" Uy, DZRS-AM

Radio announcer Uy, known for his leftist political activities, was killed by a gunman outside his home in Sorsogon City, Sorsogon province, 230 miles (375 kilometers) southeast of Manila.

Uy, 49, was president of the Media Reporters Association and provincial coordinator of Bayan Muna (People First), a leftist political party. Uy was shot five times by an assailant who fled with an accomplice on a motorcycle, according to Deutsche Presse Agentur. He died soon after at a nearby hospital. In an interview with the ABS-CBN news Web site, Bayan Muna Deputy Secretary General Roberto de Castro said that Uy received threats before he was killed. De Castro said Uy was known as a critic of the army.

NOVEMBER 20, 2005
Posted: December 2, 2005

Robert Ramos, Katapat

Ramos, 39, a reporter for the weekly tabloid, was shot twice in the head outside a market in Cabuyao, Laguna province, 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of the capital, Manila. Ramos was waiting for a ride home from work when two motorcycle-riding assailants shot him, according to police reports cited in the local media. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

On December 1, police identified two brothers as suspects in the murder. Police said the suspects believed the reporter had tipped off authorities that they sold pirated DVDs and CDs from a shop in Cabuyao. Authorities had raided the shop and confiscated merchandise on November 17. It was not immediately clear whether Ramos worked on a story connected to pirated merchandise.

DECEMBER 1, 2005
Posted: December 7, 2005

George Benaojan, DYBB and Bantay Balita

An unidentified gunman killed radio and newspaper journalist Benaojan in the central city of Cebu before fleeing in a taxi. Benaojan, 27, died at a local hospital shortly afterward, according to international news reports.

Benaojan was talking to a man in a market when the gunman approached and shot the journalist in the mouth, neck, and chest, according to news reports. A bystander was injured by a stray bullet. Witnesses reported seeing the gunman in the area several hours before the attack, according to news reports.

Local police told reporters that Benaojan had been receiving death threats; they are reviewing his commentaries and columns to investigate possible motives for his murder. Benaojan had reported on alleged corruption in the local customs bureau for Cebu Radio DYBB and the newspaper Bantay Balita, a publication distributed among customs personnel. Benaojan was known for reporting aggressively on official corruption.

Benaojan survived an attack in August 2004 when three men ambushed him and two colleagues. Benaojan told reporters that he returned fire. He said that anger over his radio commentaries or a personal grudge may have been motives for the attack.

The journalist also ran several businesses, according to news reports.