ZAMBOANGA CITY: Unidentified gunmen shot and wounded a broadcaster in the latest attack on journalists in the southern Philippines.
Motorcycle-riding gunmen shot Nilo Labares several times on Thursday as he was heading for home in Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental province. Labares is the head reporter of dxCC of the Radio Mindanao Network (RMN).
Vice Mayor Vicente Emano of Cagayan de Oro has ordered the police to take steps to deter further possible attacks on local journalists and gave a shoot-to-kill order against the assailants.
“My policy is for them to shoot the suspects if they resist. No more allowing them to flee. Besides, this may start a killing spree against the media,” Emano told RMN’s dzXL radio.
No group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack, but police suspect it has something to do with the broadcaster’s criticism of illegal gambling.
Cagayan de Oro journalists say Labares informed his colleagues at RMN two weeks ago that he had received death threats and, at one point, was approached by an emissary of a “powerful” personality who warned him to stop his tirades against “video karera” and even wanted to know how much would it cost for him to do so.
Labares, 47, was warned against continuing the radio station’s campaign against illegal gambling in the area, the station’s news chief Rey Maraunay told Agence France-Presse.
The injured journalist, who is married and has worked for the station for more than 10 years, is also editor in chief of a local weekly paper called Sports and News, Maraunay said.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists rank the Philippines as the second most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq.
In February another broadcaster, Ernie Rullen, was shot dead while waiting for a bus in Ozamiz City, also on Mindanao.
RMN said Labares has been declared out of danger and was now recuperating at the hospital.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) has condemned the attack on Labares.
“Again, while we reiterate that we see no proof of any official policy of directly attacking journalists, we nevertheless lay the blame for this and previous assaults on our colleagues, too many of whom have been silenced permanently, on the government, whose inaction and apathy, as well as its actual attempts to muzzle the media and curtail freedom of the press and expression, have nurtured the culture of impunity that emboldens those who wish to silence us,” the NUJP said in a statement.
President Gloria Arroyo’s spokesman, Cerge Remonde, condemned the shooting and ordered the police to leave no stone unturned to ensure justice is done.
Just last month, unidentified gunmen also killed broadcaster Ernie Rollin, of dxSY in Oroquieta City in Misamis Occidental province. He was the second journalist killed in the country this year, and the 64th overall since Arroyo came to power in 2001, according to the NUJP.
Political killings have long been a concern in the Philippines, making the country one of the world’s most dangerous places for reporters.
Government prosecutors earlier this year filed murder charges against a police officer in the August 2008 killing of Dennis Cuesta, program director of RMN in General Santos City.
–Al Jacinto, Correspondent with Sammy Martin And AFP