Rolando “Dodong” Morales

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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, 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’ 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’ crusading 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.

In August, police in General Santos City arrested and filed murder charges against two suspects in Morales’ murder, including the alleged mastermind.

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 anticrime task force and reported 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 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.