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Alleged murderer of journalists killed; president vows to end media killings, update libel arrest procedure

(CMFR/IFEX) - The alleged gunman behind the 19 June 2006 killing of journalist/activist couple Maricel Alave Vigo and George Vigo in Kidapawan, Cotabato, has himself been killed, the online publication " " reported. Kidapawan is located in Central Mindanao, a southern island of the Philippines.

George Vigo was a contributor of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) and hosted a youth-oriented program over dxND radio station, while Maricel Vigo hosted a program called "Congress Affairs" over dxND. She was also executive director of the non-government organization Peoples' Kauyahan Foundation, Inc. (PKFI), which dealt with peace-building projects.

"Mindanews" quoted a relative of Jhonever "Jec-jec" Madangguit, the alleged gunman in the Vigo killing, as saying that he died in a vehicular accident on 3 June 2007 in Agusan del Sur, a province in Mindanao.

Agusam police, however, said that Madangguit appears to have been shot. "There were no traces . . . No wounds that would prove that he died in an accident. Instead, some marks on his body suggest that he had been shot," Makilala police chief Ramil Hojilla said.

Madangguit's relatives have transported his body to Makilala, a municipality in Cotabato. "Mindanews" reported that a police department staff person, who spoke anonymously, said that Madangguit was reportedly with two hired killers on a gun-for-hire mission. The would-be victim, however, got wind of Madangguit's intent and killed him instead.

Madangguit was widely believed to be a "fall guy" in the Vigo shooting, which occurred on the afternoon of 19 June 2006, in Sandawa district in Kidapawan, while the couple were on their motorcycle.

"Mindanews" quoted Ruby Padilla-Sison, a friend of the Vigo couple who is now in hiding because of threats, as saying that Madangguit "could have spoken the truth if brought to court. He could have said his piece as to whether he was involved in the killing or not".

"A dead man tells no tale," Padilla-Sison added.

The case filed against Madangguit was dismissed by Kidapawan city prosecutor Al Calica for insufficient evidence in late 2006.

" . . . [N]ow that Madangguit is dead, the plotters of the couple's slaying are off the hook, while the unfortunate kids of George and Maricel and the family still long for justice to be served," Padilla-Sison said.

Missionary priest Peter Geremiah, the Vigo's spiritual adviser for more than 10 years, said that all he's hoping for now is that the investigation of the Melo Commission, a body organized by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to probe the extra-judicial killings in the country, would yield some result. The Vigo killing was one of the cases the Melo Commission took up.

Arroyo met with local and foreign media representatives on 14 June 2007 at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room and vowed that her administration would put an end to the killing of journalists. The National Union of Journalists, one of the organizations leading the campaign against the killings, was not invited to the meeting.

In view of the deluge of libel cases against media, Arroyo also said she would update a 1990 agreement under which police serving warrants of arrest for journalists facing libel charges would first notify the National Press Club and the media organization concerned.

But Arroyo's husband, Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo, has filed a total of 11 libel cases against 46 journalists since 2003. Mike Arroyo had a change of heart after undergoing high-risk heart surgery and has promised to withdraw his libel suits.

"First of all, let me once again deplore the killings of journalists. We have a sorry history in our nation for political violence. We aim to break this cycle of violence once and for all," President Arroyo said, the website " http://www. " reported.

"I happen to believe that 99 percent of military and policemen and women are good, outstanding and loyal patriots fighting to protect our country every day. But if rogue members of police and military are involved, we've all agreed that they shall be punished," she said.

Arroyo also ordered the creation of a special prosecution team that will handle cases of media killings.

CMFR has listed 63 journalists/media practitioners killed in the line of duty since democracy was restored in the country in 1986. Thirty-two of the 63 were killed during the Arroyo administration.

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