MANILA, May 29 – The string of media killings in the Philippines continued when a veteran crime reporter was shot dead gangland style by two gunmen riding in tandem aboard a motorcycle in downtown Manila over the weekend, police said.
Alex Balcoba, 56, reporter for People’s Brigada, a tabloid newspaper, was standing in front of a watch-repair shop in the busy suburban Quiapo District in Manila when he was shot.
The gunmen were able to escape in the chaos of fleeing passersby before the police arrived.
The shooting took place at 7:30 pm on Friday. Balcoba was rushed to the hospital but died later. He was fatally hit in the head.
Police have yet to determine the motive for Balcoba’s killing.
Balcoba is the 34th Filipino journalist murdered in the past six years under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, who will leaves office on June 30 this year. He will be replaced by president-elect Rodrigo Duterte.
A total of 174 Filipino journalists have been killed in line of duty since 1986, when the Philippines regained its press freedoms following the "people power" revolution that ousted of then President Ferdinand Marcos from power, ending his 20-year rule.
The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the cold-bloodied murder of Balcoba.
In a statement, Ryan Rosauro, NUJP chair, said, “Whether or not Balcoba’s murder is related to his work as a journalist, we demand that authorities act speedily the catch his killers and bring them to justice. Our country has suffered too long from the impunity with which murder continues to be committed."
At the same time, the government's Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also condemned also condemned the killing of Balcoba. He said the Philippine National Police (PNP) launched a manhunt to arrest Balcoba's killers.
The Philippines is known internationally for its outspoken press, but the country is also tagged among the most dangerous countries where journalists have been killed with impunity.
The NUJP said only about ten suspects have been convicted for the killing of journalists since 1986.
The Philippines is also home to one of the world's worst mass killings of members of the press. In 2009, the world was shocked when 32 journalists were among the 58 people killed in what is known as the gory Maguindanao massacre.
Trial in that case is ongoing against nearly 200 suspects headed by the powerful Amputuan family in the province of Maguindanao, located in the southern Philippines some 600 kilometers south of Manila.
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Photo courtesy of Tony Webster.