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Sixth reporter killed in 9 months

Philippines | Press Freedom

MANILA, Oct. 8 - Another Philippine journalist was gunned down by a motorcycle-riding gunman in broad daylight Friday, in a spate of killings of members of media in the country – the sixth in the past nine months and 147th since 1986.

Police identified the victim as Johnson Pascual, editor-in-chief and columnist of Prime News, a community newspaper in Cauayan City, Isabela province some 280 kilometers north of Manila.

Pascual, 52, who is also the manager of the First Isabela Cooperative Bank, was driving his van  along the national highway in the town of Alicia when the suspect on a motorcycle sidled up to the right side of the victim’s vehicle, pulled a gun and fired two successive shots.

The unidentified gunman casually sped away as if nothing happened.  Police said Pascual lost control of his van which plunged into a ravine.  Chief Inspector Julio Go, Isabela police spokesman, said Pascual was hit in the head and torso.

Police are still investigating the motive of the murder whether it was a work-related as a journalist or as a banker.

Last month, Rufo Uy, manager of the Rural Bank of Angadanan, Isabela, was also shot and killed by motorcycle-riding men in front of his house in Alicia municipality.

Nestor Burgos, president of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines NUJP), said Pascual was the six Filipino journalist murdered this year and 147 since 1986. 

Burgos said it was too early to conclude if the killing of Pascual was related to his job as a journalist or otherwise.

“But whatever the motive, the authorities should really investigate the crime,” Burgos said.

Gigi Nueve, a bank employee, said that Pascual was not known to have any enemies and described him as “a good man, very friendly and very fatherly to us and our clients.”

She said they were shocked when they learned about the killing of Pascual.

Media and rights groups say the Philippines is one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists due to a “culture of impunity” where firearms are common and powerful figures believe they are above the law.

In the most infamous incident victimizing members of the press, 32 journalists were among 57 people murdered known as the Maguindanao Massacre in the southern Philippines on Nov. 23, 2009, allegedly by members of a powerful clan who wanted to eliminate a rival’s political challenge.

The alleged masterminds and close to 100 out of the 200 suspects have been arrested and are currently being tried in court.

The trial may take years considering the huge number of suspects.

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