On July 22, 2021, at about 9 a.m., unidentified assailants riding a motorcycle shot and killed Renante “Rey” Cortes outside Cebu City’s dyRB radio station, where he hosted a regular political news program, according to news reports.
Cortes sustained wounds to his abdomen, chest, and arm, and was declared dead on arrival at the Cebu City Medical Center, reports said. He had just completed his daily program when he was shot, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, a local press group, said in a statement.
Cebu City Police Major Dindo Alaras said investigators were looking into Cortes’ work as a journalist and past personal conflicts as possible motives for the killing, Rappler reported. Alaras said it could have been the work of enemies Cortez made due to his radio commentaries, CNN Philippines reported.
DyRB administrative associate Nova Banawan said she was not aware of any recent death threats made to Cortes, but noted that two unidentified people had visited the station’s office on June 21 to inquire about his schedule, Rappler reported.
Alaras said police would check security footage in the area where Cortes was killed and deploy a team to hunt for suspects. He added that Cortes’ radio commentaries often brought him into conflict with local political figures.
The Presidential Task Force on Media Security, a state agency tasked with solving media killings, said in a statement on July 27, quoting Cebu City Police Office city director Josefino Ligan, that Cortes had worked as a radio broadcaster since 2003 and that his Engkwentro program at dyRB often focused on “alleged anomalies” of local politicians.
Ligan said his murder “could be work-related” but that “different angles are being considered.”
Cortes worked as a “block time” broadcaster, an arrangement in the Philippines in which individuals can purchase blocks of airtime to host their programs independently, that statement said, adding that he hosted his program on various local broadcasters over the years.
In another statement, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security said that Cortes had survived a previous attempt on his life, and that he was arrested for extortion of a government official in 2006. The statement did not include any detail about the previous attempt on his life.
In 2016, the husband of the mayor of nearby Cordova City filed multiple libel charges against Cortes for alleging he was a drug lord, according to news reports.
Perry Solis Jr., the task force’s chief of staff, told CPJ via email on September 3, 2021, that it considers all violence committed against journalists as work-related unless proven otherwise. Solis said the task force’s findings showed Cortes had “many other undertakings aside from broadcasting” that investigators were examining.