Duterte task force looking at non-work related angle in journalist's slay

Duterte task force looking at non-work related angle in journalist's slay
File photo of slain journalist Jesus "Jess" Malabanan
Facebook / Jesus Yutrago Malabanan

MANILA, Philippines — The Presidential Task Force on Media Security is looking into the possibility that veteran journalist Jesus “Jess” Malabanan was killed due to reasons not related to his work, which included reportage on President Duterte's brutal "war on drugs."

PTFoMS Executive Director Joel Sy Egco told state-run People’s Television on Saturday that the task force checking to see if Malabanan, whom he said wanted to move into farming, got into a land dispute.

“So isa po iyon sa tinitingnan natin, itong kanyang panibagong career, ika nga. Sinisilip po natin iyan, iyong usaping lupa, baka may nakaaway siya doon,” Egco said.

(So that’s one of the things we’re looking into, his changing of career. We’re taking a look at land negotiations, maybe he fought with someone over this.)

Egco added that based on conversations with Malabanan’s colleagues at the Manila Standard, the slain journalist had not been writing critically about anyone and had only been writing “feel good” stories.

Egco said the investigation is now focused on Samar as Malabanan, who was mostly reporting from Pampanga, supposedly had no enemies there.

Malabanan's colleagues in the news media, however, had acknowledged Malabanan's contributions to Reuters’ Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into the so-called drug war, questioning police actions during the course of the campaign that killed thousands of suspects ahead of legal proceedings.

Malabanan was shot dead while watching television inside the store located at his residence in his hometown of Calbayog City, Samar around 6:30 p.m. of December 8.

Police said Friday they have identified a person of interest in the killing of Malabanan based on interviews made by homicide investigators.

Malabanan’s wife, Mila, said he had been helping farmers who allegedly lost their land to a wealthy individual in Calbayog City prior to his killing.

Malabanan was a defense reporter in the ’80s and ’90s, then based in Angeles City, Pampanga. He served as a stringer for the Manila Times and Reuters as well as a correspondent for Bandera before writing for the Standard. — Xave Gregorio with reports from Emmanuel Tupas, Artemio Dumlao, Alexis Romero/The STAR

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