Dennis Denora, publisher and reporter at the privately owned weekly English-language community newspaper Trends and Times, was shot at around 1:10 p.m. on June 7, 2018, in Panabo City, in the southern province of Davao del Norte, while in his car and died instantly from multiple gunshot wounds to the head, according to news reports. His driver, Mayonito Rivera, was also wounded in the attack, those reports said.
Police spokesperson Chief Inspector Milgrace Driz said that an unidentified assailant escaped on foot, according to a Manila Bulletin newspaper report. Police recovered three fired bullets and one used cartridge case from a .45 caliber pistol from the scene, that report said.
The Philippine Inquirer reported that police had formed a special investigation task force to probe Denora’s killing, including the possibility it was related to his journalism. Chief Inspector Frederick Deles, acting chief of the Panabo City police, said Denora had no known enemies or threats against his life, that report said.
Joel Egco, director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, a government body created by President Rodrigo Duterte to resolve media murder cases, said the day after his killing–without elaborating–that a “very influential politician” could have been the mastermind of the attack, according to local reports.
“The initial report we received is that his killing has something to do with politics,” Egco was quoted as saying on June 8, 2018. On December 10, 2018, Egco told CPJ by email that his task force had received “raw reports” that indicated Denora’s killing may have been influenced by a “bitter rivalry between two big politicians in the area,” but that he was still waiting for the results of a police investigation into the matter.
On January 23, 2019, the Panabo City prosecutor’s office charged a man identified as Richard Posas Bolastig and unidentified coconspirators with murder at the Davao del Norte Regional Trial Court Branch 11, according to information compiled by the presidential task force and shared with CPJ. The task force information identifies Denora’s killing as related to his work as a journalist.
On February 24, 2021, the task force said in a statement that the Davao del Norte Police Provincial Office had arrested Bolastig, and that he was being detained at Tagum City Jail awaiting trial. It said the case was pending at Branch 4 of the Regional Trial Court of Panabo City, presided over by Judge Carmel Gil Grado.
CPJ was unable to find contact information for Bolastig or his legal representation.
Perry Solis Jr., the task force’s chief of staff, told CPJ by email in September 2021 that police reports described Bolastig as “jobless” and linked to a “gun for hire group” operating out of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley provinces.
Solis said that no other suspects had been identified or charged with Denora’s killing as of September 2021, and that Bolastig was also facing another murder charge unrelated to Denora’s case that was undergoing trial.
Solis added that Bolastig’s “trial may reveal new information on the killing, including the identification of other conspirators.”
The Davao del Norte Press and Radio-TV Club, an independent local press group, said in a statement that Denora was known for his "fearless" newspaper and radio reports. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, a national press freedom advocacy group, said on its Facebook page that Denora’s killing was a clear assault on press freedom.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines told CPJ that it considered Denora’s death to be work-related and that its investigation showed he was working on a story related to illegal drugs at the time of his killing.
Denora, 67, also had a regular radio program where he rented air time on dxKS-FM in Tagum City, and was the founding chairperson of Davao Region Multi-Media Group, one of several media associations in Davao del Norte province, reports said.