Reporter killed in Quiapo gun attack

Ramil Bajo, Rey Galupo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – A reporter for a weekly crime and police tabloid was shot dead in Manila on Friday, the latest in a long list of unsolved murders of media workers in the country.

Alex Balcoba, 56, a reporter of People’s Brigada, was shot in the head by a lone gunman in front of a watch repair shop owned by his family in Quiapo.

Witnesses said the gunman walked towards his companion waiting on a motorcycle in front of a nearby hotel, then the two fled in the direction of Quiapo Church.

Fellow journalists took Balcoba to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Malacañang condemned the killing of Balcoba and assured the public the Philippine National Police is investigating the incident.

“First of all, we condole with the family of Alex Balcoba,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

The National Press Club (NPC) issued a statement condemning the attack.

NPC president Paul Gutierrez said the attack on Balcoba brought to more than 30 the number of journalists killed in the Philippines since 2010, with no suspects yet brought to justice.

Balcoba was an officer of Manila Police District Press Corps covering the police beat in Manila.

“The culture of impunity that is behind these attacks is yet to be addressed by the authorities despite their repeated boasts and promises,” Gutierrez added.

Investigator Senior Police Officer 2 Richard Escarlan of the Manila Police District said they would look into the leads given by some witnesses who said the plate number of the getaway motorcycle was MC-2719.

Escarlan said they are not ruling out the possibility that the killing is not only related to his job as a journalist, but could also be linked to his business in Quiapo.

He said they are studying the text messages on Balcoba’s cell phone which could identify the killer or indicate the motive for the attack.

A witness said Balcoba was seen talking to someone on the phone minutes before he was shot.

“He was saying thank you to the other person on the phone. He said he was grateful that he was given another chance then he walked towards his stall,” the witness said.

According to his son, Balcoba had been receiving death threats but they could not single out anyone “because he had too many enemies.”


“There were reports that he has too many enemies in the Quiapo area and it seems this (killing) is not job related because his last article came out on Feb. 9. However, we are not discounting any possible angle,” MPD director Chief Supt. Rolando Nana said yesterday.

Balcoba is the second journalist to be killed this year, and the 34th since 2010 when President Aquino assumed office, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

He is also the 174th journalist killed since the EDSA Revolution that ended the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship 30 years ago, the NUJP said.

Just 10 suspects have been convicted for attacks on journalists across the country since 1986, according to NUJP.

“Though authorities have yet to determine the motive of the killing, whether or not Balcoba’s murder is related to his work as a journalist, we demand that authorities act speedily to catch his killers and bring them to justice. Our country has suffered too long from the impunity with which murder continues to be committed, “ NUJP chairman Ryan Rosauro said.

MPD Press Corps president Francis Naguit condemned the killing and called for a speedy resolution of the case.

“We condemn the senseless killing of our member and we are calling on the government to act immediately to bring justice to Balcoba,” Naguit said.  

Known for its outspoken press, the Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for reporters, where powerful figures often kill critics with impunity.

One of the world’s deadliest attacks against journalists took place in 2009, when 32 journalists were among 58 people killed by a warlord clan intent on stopping a rival’s election challenge.

More than one hundred people are on trial for that massacre. – Aurea Calica, Artemio Dumlao

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