A Philippine court convicts one journalist’s killer; another acquits a suspect in a separate case

CMFR/PHILIPPINES—Two local courts recently decided two separate cases of work-related killing of broadcasters in Region XI (Davao Region). Eight out of the 78 work-related killing of journalists/ media practitioners since 1986 happened in Region XI.

On 22 April 2009, Judge George Omelio of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 14 in Davao City acquitted a block-timer of the charge of murdering his fellow block-time radio broadcaster Fernando “Batman” Lintuan for lack of additional evidence to support the testimony of the prosecution’s lone witness. Davao City is approximately 978 kms from Manila.

Meanwhile, Judge Albert Axalan of Branch 20 of the Digos City RTC convicted on 24 March 2009 Joy “Tungol” Anticamara, who gunned down block-time radio broadcaster Armando “Rachman” Pace, for homicide instead of murder. Digos City, the capital of Davao del Sur province, is about 995 kms Southeast of Manila. Although it was promulgated 29 April 2009, the decision was signed 24 March 2009.

Since 2001, there have only been three convictions out of the 78 cases of journalists killed— the killers of Marlene Esperat, Edgar Damalerio, and now, Pace. Forty journalists or 51.28 percent of the 78 were killed after Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001.

Acting on the accused’s demurrer to evidence, the Davao RTC Branch 14 acquitted Leonilo Larosa in the Lintuan case (Criminal Case no. 63,537-2008) after the prosecution failed to present new evidence against him. A demurrer is an application to dismiss the case, which the court or tribunal may grant or deny. The party demurring admits the facts of the preceding pleading to be true, but questions the sufficiency of facts for the case to proceed.

Larosa through his counsel filed a demurrer to evidence last 12 March 2008.

In his decision, Judge Omelio said the testimony of the 19-year-old witness in the Lintuan case was “irreconcilable, contradictory, and incompatible with his statements on other occasions.” The inconsistencies “therefore made him ridiculous and unbelievable,” Omelio added.

Lintuan was shot dead on 24 December 2007 by a gunman riding tandem with an accomplice on a motorcycle. Lintuan was in his car with two colleagues and had just left the dxGO radio station premises.

Lintuan was critical of the local government and was known to be a hard-hitting commentator in Davao. He also criticized the involvement of Larosa in and his promotion of “Last Two”, an illegal numbers game where the winning combination is taken from the last two numbers of the winning combination of the Sweepstakes.

Lintuan had been a radio broadcaster since the 1980s and was also a columnist for Sun.Star Super Balita, a local newspaper in Davao. He was the first president of the Davao Sportswriters Association and was also a member of the Philippine Sports Commission.

In the other media murder case (Criminal Case no. 281-2006), the court sentenced gunman Anticamara to a maximum of 17 years in prison and to pay damages amounting to P151,500.00 for the killing of Pace.

Judge Axalan of the Digos City RTC in his decision said he was convinced that Anticamara killed Pace after the 16-year-old witness positively identified him as the gunman. But the court reduced the offense to homicide because “the evidence on record does not show that the motorcycle was purposely used to facilitate the commission of the crime” but “was used only in facilitating the escape.”

Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) legal adviser Prima Jesusa Quinsayas explained that “the act of escaping from the crime scene on a motorcycle is different from using a motorcycle to facilitate the crime.” The FFFJ is a coalition organized to address the killing of journalists. Its members are the Kapisanan ng Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (Association of Broadcasters of the Philippines) , the Philippine Press Institute, the Center for Community Journalism and Development, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the US-based newspaper Philippine News, and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, which serves as its secretariat.

“Say a tricycle driver killed someone with a gun. After shooting him, he gets on his tricycle and escapes. That is simply using his tricycle to escape the scene of the crime. If the tricycle driver used his tricycle to get near someone on the pretext of getting the latter as a passenger so as not to arouse suspicion, then shoots him and leaves on the motorcycle, the motorcycle was used to facilitate a crime,” Quinsayas said.

Court records show that the witness saw Anticamara, who has been her neighbor for around 12 years, with a gun after she heard three gunshots and saw Pace dead on the cemented street. Anticamara had always maintained he was innocent.

Despite the decision, Quinsayas said a murder complaint can still be filed against the masterminds should the police or any other law enforcement agency identify them and gather sufficient evidence to establish probable cause, which is necessary for the filing of an information against the masterminds in the Pace case.

“…(J)ustice is never fully served if the mastermind is not identified, arrested, tried and convicted,” Quinsayas said. No mastermind has been convicted since 2001.

Pace was killed on 18 July 2006 minutes after he signed off from his dxDS-Radyo Ukay program Ukadyang, slang in Davao for “ukaya” which means “stir it up”. Pace was shot thrice with a .45-caliber gun by two men riding on a black motorcycle along Rizal Avenue, Digos City. He died on the way to the hospital.

Three months before he was killed, Pace had received death threats through his mobile phone but chose to ignore them and to continue with his work.

Pace was known for his fiery commentaries and for mocking his subjects on the air. He also commented on his subjects’ personal problems, which his colleagues said led to the filing of about a hundred libel suits against him. His reporting style earned him the moniker “Rachman”, a term derived from the word “rak-rak” which means “firing indiscriminately at people”. #

(http://www.cmfr- phil.org/ 2009/05/07/ a-philippine- court-convict- one-journalists- killer-another- acquits-a- suspect-in- a-separate- case/)

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