Two media practitioners killed in a week

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – Two media practitioners were killed by unidentified gunmen in separate incidents in the Southern provinces of Luzon this second week of June 2009. Police have yet to establish the motives behind the killings.

On 12 June 2009, print journalist Antonio Castillo died three hours after being shot by a gunman who later fled on a motorcycle in Uson town, Masbate province. Uson, Masbate is approximately 403 kilometers from Manila.

Three days earlier Crispin Perez Jr., a radio commentator at the local government-owned FM radio station dwDO in San Jose City, Occidental Mindoro province, died at hospital gunshot wounds inflicted by an unknown gunman outside his home at around 10 a.m. (local time). Occidental Mindoro is approximately 156 kilometers south from Manila. Earlier reports said Perez had been stabbed, but Major Alberto Villapando, head of the police team assigned to investigate the case, told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) in a phone interview that Perez sustained two gunshot wounds from a .45 caliber handgun.

Perez’ widow Irene told CMFR in another phone interview that she saw the gunman talking to her husband outside their home. She said she saw the assailant holding the gun after hearing two consecutive shots. Irene said she tried but was not able to chase the gunman who immediately boarded a motorcycle after shooting Perez.

Perez was one of the three anchors in the “Sa Totoo Lang (For Real)” program, which aired from Monday to Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Station manager Ferdie Data of dwDO told CMFR in a phone interview the public affairs program promoted government projects and addressed issues in government. The two other anchors were also government officials who were both members of a barangay (village) council—a kagawad and a barangay captain, he said.

Perez, who was a lawyer and a former Occidental Mindoro vice governor (July 1992 to July 1995), joined the program in the third week of May. Perez also had his own program every Saturday, which was aired simultaneously at dwDO and Radyo Natin stations from 12 to 1 p.m. The program, Data said, began at around January 2009.

Irene said her husband also worked as a radio commentator at around 2003 to 2004 at dzYM station, but stopped to focus on private practice as lawyer. Irene said Perez also worked as part-time municipal legal consultant recently.

Irene Perez and Data said Perez’ killing may be work-related. Perez may have earned himself enemies for his criticisms of mining and a supply contract between a local cooperative and a private power firm, among others, Data said.

In Masbate, local police said they have yet to establish why columnist Antonio Castillo was killed. Uson town police chief Senior Inspector Aurora Moran told CMFR in a 15 June 2009 phone interview that they have yet to conclude their investigation on the killing of Castillo, a columnist for the local tabloid Bigwas (Blow).

At around 9 a.m. (local time) on 12 June, a gunman on a motorcycle shot Castillo, who was himself on a motorcycle along the national highway in Purok 1, Marcella village, Uson town. Willy Salazar, a journalist in the Bicol region and a member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, told CMFR that Castillo was on his way home when the incident happened.

GMANews.TV quoted Moran as saying that “He (Castillo) was chased up to Sawang village (Uson town) where he sought refuge in a house and the attackers fled.” Castillo was rushed by members of the Philippine Army stationed in Uson to the Masbate Provincial Hospital.

A Manila Bulletin 14 June 2009 report said that the investigators thought Castillo would survive and could identify his assailants. But Castillo died three hours after the attack.

Moran explained in a phone interview that Castillo told police investigators that he recognized the gunman and driver but refused to give their names when asked at the hospital. A police spot report said the gunman was wearing a light blue shirt and no helmet, while the driver was wearing a black jacket and a red helmet.

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