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Another radio man shot dead

- Jun Elias -

CAMP FLORENDO, La Union , Philippines  – A radio broadcaster in Ilocos Norte was ambushed last Tuesday night by unidentified suspects while on his way home from work along the national highway near the boundary of Bacarra town and Laoag City.

The victim was identified as Joselito Agustin, 37, anchorman of dzJC Aksyon Radyo-Laoag, sister station of the dzRH of the Manila Broadcasting Co.

Agustin suffered gunshot wounds on different parts of the body and died a few hours after he was rushed to the Gov. Roque B. Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital.

Agustin’s killing came in the wake of the murder of another radio broadcaster, Desiderio Camangyan, who was shot dead by unidentified suspects while the victim was hosting an amateur singing contest at Barangay Macopa in Manay, Davao Oriental last Monday.

Camangyan, 52, anchorman of Sunrise FM radio based in Mati, Davao Oriental, was the 101st journalist killed during the administration of President Arroyo.

Andy Vital, news director for the station’s parent outfit Manila Broadcasting Co., said Agustin might have been killed to silence him.

“Agustin has been vocal in criticizing graft and corruption in Bacarra,” Vital said.

Investigators said that the victim, along with his nephew Joseph Agustin, were on board a motorcycle on their way home after his regular evening program at around 10 p.m. when unidentified suspects followed them and shot them at close range in Barangay Natba, Bacarra.

Agustin, who regularly accompanies his uncle to the station for his evening program, suffered slight injuries and survived.

Policemen recovered several empty shells of a .45 caliber pistol at the crime scene.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Jesus Verzosa created a special task group to investigate the killing of Agustin.

Verzosa also directed all unit commanders to secure all media men nationwide.

A separate police task force was also formed last Tuesday to investigate the Camangyan killing.

Verzosa ordered Ilocos region police director Chief Superintendent Constante Azares and the Task Force Usig to make sure Agustin’s killing is investigated and solved by identifying and arresting the killers.

PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina said the PNP chief specifically mentioned that the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) should immediately investigate and solve this case.

“PNP chief Verzosa also ordered the police to run after all perpetrators through continuous manhunt operations,” said Espina.

Espina added that investigators should give the PNP chief immediate feedback on the progress of the investigation and conduct of manhunt operations.

Laoag City police chief Superintendent Sterling Raymund Blanco said that they have yet to determine the motive of the killing, which could have been either job related or personal.

Blanco said investigators would check on the victims’ recorded radio programs and whatever death threat messages in his mobile phone.

Probers said unidentifed suspects fired shots at Agustin’s house in Barangay Natba last May 17.

Diomedes Lorenzo, station manager of dzJC, said that he had warned the victim to go slow on his commentaries and take extra precautions.   

His media colleagues in Ilocos Norte describe Agustin as a “jolly” person and a fearless commentator.

NUJP urges Noynoy to solve killings

The National Union of Journalists (NUJP) condemned the killings of Agustin and Camangyan and called on incoming president Benigno Aquino III to solve the murders of media men.

NUJP urged president-elect Aquino to take these latest killings as a personal challenge to his ability to govern and keep his campaign promises of strengthening democracy in the country.

NUJP chairman Nestor Burgos Jr. said the killings of the two journalists are brazen attacks against press freedom.

He lamented that successive governments in the country have allowed the killers of journalists to remain unpunished.

“The murders have spiked under the nine years of the Arroyo administration that had shown apathy to the killings and even outright hostility to the media,” Burgos said.

The New York-based press freedom watchdog Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) had urged president-elect Aquino to address the murders of journalists in the Philippines, described as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

A gun culture, a free wheeling press and massive corruption are some of the factors that make the Philippines so dangerous for journalists.

Criminal gangs, politicians and other powerful interests typically murder journalists to silence them and intimidate other media workers.

The attackers are rarely caught or punished, and journalists say this culture of impunity is largely responsible for the continued killings.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general Renato Reyes said that human rights abuses, particularly unexplained killings, have been hounding the Arroyo government.

“We hope that the next administration will make the defense of human rights a priority. We hope that victims will finally have justice for the killings and disappearances that happened over the last nine years,” Reyes said.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Sen. Pia Cayetano condemned the killings of Agustin and Camangyan.

“During the Arroyo administration about 100 journalists were killed. With 11 days to go, two more were killed. Where is press freedom?” Pimentel said.

Cayetano said the government’s indifference to the state of Philippine media was affirmed recently by the unceremonious ‘killing’ of the Freedom of Information Bill by Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the closing session of the House of Representatives.

“I am hopeful that the incoming administration would make it a priority to decisively address this climate of impunity and to deliver justice long denied the victims and families of unsolved media slayings,” she said.

Laoag Bishop Sergio Utleg condemned the killing of Agustin and expressed belief that his slaying was work-related.

He asked that his radio commentaries be re-aired by dzJC to give the public an enligthened opinion on who are behind the murder. – With Artemio Dumlao, Christina Mendez, Rhodina Villanueva, Teddy Molina, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Michelle Zoleta

AGUSTIN

AGUSTIN AND CAMANGYAN

BACARRA

BARANGAY NATBA

DAVAO ORIENTAL

ILOCOS NORTE

JOURNALISTS

KILLINGS

LAOAG CITY

MANILA BROADCASTING CO

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