Filipino mayor indicted in journo deaths
MANILA – In an unprecedented swift action in a spate of media killings, police filed murder charges against the newly elected town vice mayor of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte, and his aide in connection with the killing of a radio journalist last June 15. Charged were Bacarra Vice Mayor-elect Pacifico Velasco, and his aide Leonardo Banaag. They were named prime suspects in the killing of radio commentator Jovelito Agustin.
Police Supt. Bienvenido Rayco, head of Task Force Agustin, said the police also filed separate attempted murder charges against two other suspects Ricky Acosta and Maymoy Baldemor in connection with the strafing of Agustin’s house on May 7.
Agustin and two other journalists were killed in gangland fashion during a five-day period following the lifting of the election gun ban on June 9.
The two other slain journalists were Desidario Camangyan and Nestor Bedolido, who were gunned down in Manay and Digos City in southern Philippines on June 14 and June 19, respectively.
Police are also expected to file murder charges against the killer of Camangyan.
The government has sent a special investigation body to Digos and Manay to investigate the killing of Camangyan and Bedolido.
Justice Undersecretary Ian Norman Dato, who is the chair of Task Force 211 that investigates extrajudicial killings in the country, has vowed to unmask the assailants.
Investigators who reviewed taped radio programs of Agustin found that Velasco was the object of sharp commentaries regarding Velasco’s graft case conviction by the Sandiganbayan court and affirmed by the Court of Appeal. The case is now pending resolution at the Supreme Court.
In the murder of Camangyan, police are making progress as are they are set to file criminal charges against the alleged triggerman.
Mrs. Ruth Camangyan, wife of the slain radio journalist who witnessed the killing of her husband, will help the police identify the gunman, according to Police Senior Supt. George Corpuz.
In his radio program, Camangyan was vocal against illegal loggers on the East Coast of Davao Oriental.
Meanwhile, a new twist has developed in the killing of Bedolido amidst claim by the police that he was no longer a practicing journalist when Bedolido was shot last Saturday evening.
However, Boying Torecampo, a staffer of Kastigador news weekly, said that Bedolido was a consultant of the paper.
“He was an editorial consultant but he did not want his name in the staff box because he was planning to produce his own magazine,” Torecampo was quoted as saying.
Bedolido was fatally while he buying cigarettes in Digos City. His killing was believed to be politically motivated, according to his son, Marxlen.