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Radio journalist shot to death after receiving death threats

(CMFR/IFEX) - On 2 December 2008, another radio broadcaster was gunned down by unknown assailants in the town of San Roque, Northern Samar. Northern Samar is approximately 479 km from Manila.

At around 6 p.m. (local time), Leonilo Mila, 38, of Radyo Natin (Our Radio) in San Roque was on his way out of the radio station compound when unknown assailants attacked him. Mila had just ended his afternoon music program "Himig Waraynon" (Waraynon Sound) and was on his way home. Mila also anchored a morning public service program "Pungkaras sa Kaagonoon" (Wake up at Dawn).

Mila is the sixth journalist/media practitioner to be killed in the line of duty in 2008, according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) database. A total of seven journalists have been killed in the Philippines in 2008.

Alice Cagro, station manager of Radyo Natin in San Roque, said other employees heard a series of gun shots a few minutes after Mila left the office. But they did not immediately go out because it was dark.

"They went out after 30 minutes. When they reached the gate, they saw Mila's motorcycle on the ground but not Mila. The motorcycle seemed to have hit the left wing of the gate; the engine was still running," Cagro told CMFR. The other radio employees went back to the office and told Cagro that Mila was missing.

Cagro called the mayor and asked for help in looking for Mila. She said the police and some village officials found Mila's body in an empty lot a few meters from the gate. Mila was reportedly dragged to the lot by unknown assailants before he was killed. "He was grasping some grass and his lips were tightly closed. It seemed as if he had begged for his life," she said.

Mila sustained six gunshot wounds-one in his head, another in his breast, two in his shoulders, and two in his thighs. Mila is survived by his wife and two children ages 9 and 10.

His colleagues believe that the killing of Mila is work-related. Mila had been receiving death threats prior to the killing because of his commentaries. Rommel Rutor of dyMS Aksyon Radion and Samar Weekly Express told CMFR. Mila had been receiving threats from an unidentified teacher and a local official.

"We saw each other last Saturday in Catarman. I was telling him about death threats I have received, when he told me he was also getting death threats," Rutor said. Mila had reported the threats to the local police, his colleagues said.

On 17 November a Radyo Natin commentator, Aresio Padrigao, was also shot by a killer onboard a motorcycle in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental. Seventy-seven journalists/media practitioners have been killed in the line of duty in the Philippines since the restoration of democracy in 1986.

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