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DOJ dismisses complaint vs Catanduanes gov over 1st media killing under Duterte

By Lottie Salarda

“We were not surprised anymore,” Catanduanes journalist Marlon Suplig said after learning that the Department of Justice in Manila dismissed the murder complaint against Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua and others over the murder of Catanduanes Now Publisher Larry Que in 2016.

What surprised them was the failure of the DOJ to notify them almost a year after its resolution, Suplig said.

Contrary to the Rules on Criminal Procedure requiring only probable cause for a case to be filed, Assistant State Prosecutor Alejandro Daguiso in a resolution dated October 30, 2017, said there is insufficiency of evidence presented by the complainants and it will be unfair to hold the respondents for trial.

Que was killed after writing a column alleging the negligence of the local officials over the discovery of a major shabu laboratory in the province.

He was the first vitim of media killing under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The victim was shot by a motorcycle men-riding in tandem at around 9:30 in the morning near his workplace in Virac, Catanduanes.

On May 2, 2017, Edralyn Pangilinan, Que’s common-law wife filed a murder case against Cua, police officer Vincent Tacorda, Cua’s right-hand Prince Lim Subion and other “John Does”.

Gov. Cua (right, in gray shirt) announces his candidacy for governorship in the 2019 local elections. (Photo by Radyo Natin-Virac, used with permission)

After his arrest last year, Tacorda admitted he was instructed to kill Que under the guise of “Operation Tokhang” by Cua through his right-hand man Subion.

Que received death threats from Lim Subion prior to the incident.

According to Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) Executive Director Joel Egco, Tacorda faced a robbery and extortion charges because he allegedly asked the family for 10 million pesos in exchange for evidence of Que’s death.

The extortion case filed against Tacorda was likewise dismissed. He denied all his extrajudicial confessions in his affidavit.

The complainants said they did not receive a copy of the resolution.

Suplig said they did not know that their complaint was already dismissed almost a year ago as they were not given copies.

It was Cua’s camp who announced the dismissal nearly two months before the filing of certificates of candidacies for the 2019 local and national polls.

The incumbent governor is planning to run for the same post next year. #

Media groups reject media regulation

Media groups reject a proposal to regulate mass media through a so-called Magna Carta for journalists, as announced by a Malacañan official Friday.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) rejected outright the proposal of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) to regulate the profession “in the guise of a “Magna Carta.”

In reaction to a speech by PTFoMS executive director Joel Egco in Baguio City Friday, the groups said it was not the first time that such a measure is being proposed, which they have consistently opposed.

SunStar-Baguio reported Egco as saying the proposed measure would seek to professionalize journalism through qualifying and classifying exams.

“If you want to become a media personality, you will have to take an exam every six months to assess your qualification which would set either a managerial position or a corresponding salary level or grade equivalent to that of government,” Egco was quoted as saying.

Egco was addressing Northern Luzon journalists who attended a seminar on media safety protocols developed by the PTFoMS in light of the continuing threats against media workers.

He said that professionalizing the ranks of journalists by classifying them into three levels would lessen threats against them.

“With the qualifying exam, journalists can now be qualified as a level 1, 2 or 3, and depending on the vacant position to be applied, they can now for example apply for a reportorial position which is level 2 while obtaining a level 1 qualification,” Egco said.

Saying that while it does not question Egco’s intent, the NUJP, however, said the proposed “Magna Carta,” which goes so far as to set salary grades depending on “competency,” is fraught with danger.

The group added that the proposal would allow the government to determine who can or cannot be a journalist, which is totally anathema to a profession that can thrive only in independence.

The CEGP for its part said the proposed Magna Carta is a misguided attempt by President Rodrigo Duterte’s “politically erratic regime, known for its pseudo-journalists, trolls, fake news and manipulation of public opinion.”

The student journalists said that the Duterte government is in no position to dictate on the media since its own “biases and sensibilities are geared towards the creation of state-sponsored fake news that dumb down the toiling masses.”

A Philippine Press Institute officer, meanwhile, said on a social media post that their group has already rejected the so-called Magna Carta a long time ago.

“’Levelling’ has nothing to do with quality of journalism. We should [instead] care for the following: welfare and protection, ethical practice, and truth-telling,” PPI executive director Ariel Sabellino said.

The NUJP added it cannot allow government the opportunity to meddle in any way in the profession and urged journalists as well as media owners to unite in opposing what it called a clear threat to freedom of the press and of expression. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bislig mayor eyed in broadcaster’s slay

A mayor may face investigations for the killing of a broadcaster and the wounding of his companion in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur Tuesday night.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) said slain broadcaster Christopher Lozada has formally notified them of death threats he received from Bislig City Mayor Librado Navarro before his death.

According to PTFoMs, Lozada informed them the mayor texted him “to leave Bislig if you do not want to die” and that “he would step down with Lozada who will go to the cemetery since his days are numbered.”

“As a matter of policy, PTFoMS presumes Lozada’s death as a media killing and falls under its mandate in relation to Administrative Order No. 1 (AO1) of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to protect the life, liberty, and security of media workers,” its statement on the killing yesterday said.

PTFoMS issued a red-flag letter warning Navarro but Lozada was killed on the night the letter was sent to the mayor.

Aside from informing the PTFoMS his life was being threatened by the mayor, Lozada also repeatedly alleged on his Facebook account Navarro’s threats against him.

PTFoMS’s red flag letter to Navarro ordered the local executive to “desist from threatening Christopher Lozada” adding, “in case any untoward incident happens to him, we will include you (the mayor) as possible perpetrator of the same.”

Lozada, host of Prime Broadcasting Network DXBF’s radio program “Kuskos-Batikos,” was shot together with his companion Honey Faith Tuyco Indog on their way home on board their Toyota Vios with Plate No. LGY 124 at Purok 5, Barangay Coleto, Bislig City where he resided.

Lozada led the filing of a complaint against Navarro and 16 other city hall officials with the Office of the Ombudsman which subsequently found the mayor guilty of graft and corruption and ordered his dismissal.

Lozada visited the regional Department of Interior and Local Government office Monday to follow up on the Ombudsman’s order.

“We learned he went to the DILG the day before he was killed to press the agency to immediately serve the dismissal order, which sources say triggered the ambush. He even posted on social media photos of the said visit to DILG,” PTFoMS said.

Navarro claimed he is innocent about Lozada’s killing.

Mayor claims innocence

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in Cagayan de Oro City, Navarro maintained his innocence and even condemned Lozada’s killing.

“I can hold my head up high and say I am innocent and my conscience is clear,” Navarro said Wednesday.

Navarro was in Cagayan de Oro Tuesday to attend the three-day 14th National Organic Agriculture Congress (NOAC) of the League of Organic Agriculture of Municipalities and Cities of the Philippines where he is executive vice president.

“He is like a son to me,” Navarro said of Lozada, whom he claimed was “very close” to him as they were related.

In fact, he told PNA, his family was supportive of Lozada politically.

In a Facebook post, Lozada said he had nothing personal against the mayor, also saying they were in fact related.

On Oct. 14, a few days before he was killed, however, Lozada posted on his Facebook account a graphic containing an alleged order by Navarro to have him killed for P85,000 which resulted in a heated exchange of comments between them.

The following day, Oct. 15, Lozada posted a screenshot of a text message from an unknown source saying he only had 95 days to live.

Navarro has filed three counts of libel case against Lozada in 2012 in relation to the work-related and personal criticisms Lozada hurled against him on-air.

The cases are still being tried in court.

“I am open to any investigation and I will face in court anybody who’s interested to file (cases against me),” Navarro told PNA, adding he would “look into it (Lozada’s killing)” and order “a fair and proper investigation of the case be extended to the family so the truth will come out.”

Impunity

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Lozada’s killing, if work-related, may be the fifth case of media killing under the Rodrigo Duterte government and the 178th case of media killing since 1986.

 In a statement Thursday, the NUJP said Lozada’s murder shows how impunity has become so entrenched in the Philippines.

“That Lozada’s killers got him indicates that they were not the least bit worried about being caught,” the NUJP said.

“As experience has taught us, most often the reason for this is that the killers are under the protective mantle of someone powerful or influential enough who is also most likely is the mastermind,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bicol broadcaster survives attack

Carlos ‘Caloy’ Sasis. (Photo by Angel de Mesa, Baretang Bikolnon)

A Bicol broadcaster survived an attack by two gunmen earlier this week as he was about to park his car in front of their radio station in Legazpi City.

Carlos Sasis, 41, anchor of daily radio program “Dos Manos” over Zagitsit News FM 100.3 told independent media outfit Baretang Bikolnon he heard gunshots and bullets hitting the wheels of his car just as he arrived at the station.

Sasis added he saw a bulky gunman trying to reload his gun after the first volley of fire.

The victim said he believed the attack was meant to harass him, “because if they really wanted to kill me, they should have just shot me straight, not (at) my car.”

Baretang Bikolnon quoted a witness as saying the gunmen had coffee at an eatery in front of the radio station along Imelda C. Roces Avenua in Barangay Gogon before the shooting.

Asked for possible motives behind the attack, Sasis said he himself was puzzled.

“I cannot think of any reason for them to do this to me. Personally, I do not aggravate anyone, even at my service as a barangay official,” he stated.

Sasis is a councilor of Barangay Cabangan, Camalig, Albay Province.

Police recovered three spent cartridges and an unspent bullet from the scene.

Baretang Bikolnon reported the police is in possession of a “clear footage from the CCTV.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines issued an alert on the attack Friday.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) for its part said they have already sent a team to Legazpi City Thursday to conduct an investigation.

“We are on it,” PTFoMS executive director and Presidential Communications Office Undersecretary Jose Joel M. Sy Egco said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva / Photos by Angel de Mesa, Baretang Bikolnon)