Joey Llana, a radio reporter with Home Radio Legazpi, was shot 14 times while driving his car near his house in Darga town, in the central province of Albay, around 4:45 a.m. on July 20, 2018, by at least two assailants using a .45 caliber handgun and a 9mm pistol, according to the local Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the news website Rappler.
Llana was on his way to host his regular week-day radio program “Metrobanat,” the reports said. The reporter sustained multiple gunshot wounds to his head and body and was declared dead when first responders arrived at 6:05 a.m., news reports said. The assailants escaped the crime scene and no suspects were initially identified, the reports said.
Daraga City police chief Benito Dipad, citing Llana’s family, told media that the journalist had received death threats since 2017 from unknown sources. Dipad did not elaborate on the nature of the threats, according to news reports.
Police Chief Superintendent Arnel Escobal said at a July 26 news briefing that his investigators had no leads on suspects or motives because there were no witnesses to the killing, according to Rappler.
The Presidential Task Force on Media Security, a government unit tasked with solving media murders, said on August 1, 2018, that it had made “very promising progress” in its investigation, but declined to provide details because the probe was ongoing, according to news reports.
On May 27, 2019, state prosecutors filed a murder charge against Erwin Talagtag at Legaazpi City’s Regional Trial Court No. 4, according to information compiled by the presidential task force and shared with CPJ.
The suspect, an alleged member of the Concepcion Criminal Group, a gang active in the region, was still at large as of August 2020, according to updated information compiled by the task force and shared with CPJ.
The task force information shared with CPJ in 2019 stated that it believes Llana’s killing was related to his work as a journalist. The updated 2020 documents stated that the Daraga Municipal Police Intelligence Operatives and a dedicated tracker team were working to find and apprehend Talagtag throughout 2020.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, a local press freedom advocacy organization, told CPJ that it considered Llana’s murder to be work-related, and that its investigation showed he was reporting on corruption involving a local official at the time of his killing.