Two unidentified assailants on a motorcycle shot Virgilio Maganes outside his home on November 10, 2020, in the town of Villasis, in the northern Philippine province of Pangasinan, and then fled the scene, according to news reports. The journalist sustained six gunshot wounds and died at the scene, according to those reports.
Maganes worked as a commentator at the local DWPR radio station and a columnist for the weekly Northern Watch newspaper, and often covered political issues, according to reports.
A special police task group was formed to investigate the killing and examined security footage for potential leads, according to reports.
The Presidential Task Force on Media Security, a government body tasked with resolving media murder cases, said in a statement that it vowed to “hunt down and punish those responsible.”
In email correspondence with CPJ, Perry Solis, the task force’s chief of staff, said the body presumes all forms of violence against media workers to be work-related until further investigation proves otherwise, and that the organization would not rest until those responsible were brought to justice.
On March 26, 2021, the task force announced in a statement that murder charges had been filed against three suspects: Noe Cucay Y. Pelle, alias “Owing,” Romar Bustillos, and one unnamed man. The statement said that the suspects had been apprehended in December.
CPJ was unable to find contact information for the suspects, or any public statements they have made.
Senior Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Charlotte Duron-Cabida’s findings were corroborated by police and witnesses, the statement said. It alleged that Bustillos acted as a lookout while Ducay shot Maganes.
Nonoy Espina, the then chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, told CPJ by email 2020 that his group believed Maganes’ killing was likely related to his journalism.
He said Maganes had recently reported critically on a local civil society group’s alleged mishandling of funds, and that some of its members had sued the journalist for cyber-libel, in a case that was ongoing at the time of his death.
Maganes survived an attempted shooting in November 2016 by pretending to be dead; in that incident, unidentified assailants left a note at the scene claiming that the journalist was a drug dealer, according to news reports.
The Philippine National Police did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on the case.