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Spate of Journalist Killings Continues

PHILIPPINES

MANILA, Aug. 28 – There seems to be no end of media killings in the Philippines as another radio/TV anchor was gunned down in broad daylight Thursday by three motorcycle-riding gunmen. The shootings took place in the presence of a bodyguard and cameraman, and in full view of people outside a mall in Ozamiz City in the southern Philippines, police said.


Killed was Cosme Diez Maestrado, anchor of dxOC, an affiliate of station of dzXL Radio Mindanao Network, the largest radio network in the Philippines. Maestrado’s popular radio-TV program called “Mr. Ratchada” (or “Mr. Hard-Hitter") was highly critical of public and governmental irregularities.

The victim was conversing with the owner of the mall when the gunmen drew their guns and shot Maestrado at close range at about 10 a.m. in front of the Quality Shopping Center in downtown Ozamis City some 750 kilometers south of Manila.

The suspects also pointed their guns at Maestrado’s bodyguard and cameraman, who were caught by surprise.

Maestrado sustained 10 gunshot wounds. He was rushed to the Medina Hospital but was declared dead a half hour later.

The police have launched a massive manhunt for the two suspects. Not far from the crime scene, police recovered the two abandoned motorcycles used by the gunmen who fled on foot.

Maestrado had earlier asked for police protection after he received death threats from unknown persons. The Ozamiz City police were still assessing Maestrado’s security application even as death overtook the victim.

According to the victim's brother, Vicente, before Maestrado was killed, he criticized on his radio program a local politician over the purchase of construction equipment.

Police record shows that on Nov. 9, 2013, Maestrado survived a previous ambush by still unidentified gunmen apparently to silence him and his radio program. Despite the ambush, the fearless broadcaster continued his hard-hitting program until he was killed Thursday.

Maestrado was the third broadcaster killed in the Philippines this month and the 30th Filipino journalist killed since 2010.

On Aug. 18, Gregorio “Loloy” Ybañez, publisher of the local newspaper Kabuhayan News Services and president of the Davao del Norte Press and Radio-TV Club (DNPRTC), was gunned down in cold blood while he was about to enter his house in Tagum City, Davao del Norte in the southern Philippines.

Just two days later on Aug. 20, radio journalist Teodoro Escanilla was shot dead by two gunmen inside his residential compound in the presence of his horrified wife in Sorsogon.

As a result of this worsening track record of media killings, the Philippines has been tagged as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

Even as this story was being written, at dawn on Aug. 28, unidentified gunmen sprayed bullets at a coffee shop owned by radio-TV commentator Anthony Taberna along Visayas Avenue in suburban Quezon City, Metro Manila. No one was hurt, police said. An investigation is in progress.

Taberna is co-host of the program “Dos-Por Dos” (2 x 2 baton) of radio dzMM and television station Channel 2.

Meanwhile, Joel Egco, president of the National Press Club of the Philippines,  condemned the spate of media killings in the country in a phone interview with TMP.

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