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Arrest warrants issued for suspects in journalist Arecio Padrigao's murder, one detained

(CMFR/IFEX) - On 16 February 2009, a Philippine court issued arrest warrants for two suspects in the 2008 murder of radio broadcaster Arecio Padrigao in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, a province about 785 km south of Manila.

Judge Rustico Paderanga, of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 27 in Gingoog City, authorized the arrest of Ariel Degamo and Benjamin Palarca for their alleged participation in the murder of Padrigao, a dxRS Radyo Natin commentator, on 17 November 2008.

Murder charges against Degamo and Palarca were filed on 16 February by the regional prosecutor's office and the regional office of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the newspaper "Sun.star Cagayan de Oro" reported on 17 February.

Padrigao anchored "Sayri ang Katilingban" (Know the People), a block-time radio program for dxRS Radyo Natin, which aired every Friday and he wrote a column for the community newspaper "Mindanao Monitor Today". Padrigao criticized corruption in the local government as well as illegal logging activities in Misamis Oriental.

Block-timing is a practice in the Philippine provinces where "blocks" of radio time are bought by individuals for their programs. Revenues are usually generated by advertisements.

Padrigao, 55, was dropping off his daughter in front of the Bukidnon State University when he was attacked by assailants on a motorcycle at about 7:15 a.m. (local time).

Several witnesses, including Padrigao's seven-year-old daughter, identified Degamo as the one who allegedly shot Padrigao while Palarca drove the motorcycle. Physical evidence gathered by local police and the NBI also pointed to Degamo and Palarca.

Degamo, 34, is now detained at the Misamis Oriental Provincial Jail for robbery and direct assault charges. He was involved in an alleged pawnshop heist in Villanueva town in Misamis Oriental on 11 February 2008. Palarca, on the other hand, is still at large.

Department of Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor said in a17 February 2009 "Sun.star Cagayan de Oro" report that Degamo and Palarca may qualify as state witnesses in identifying the mastermind behind Padrigao's murder.

Police discovered other pending criminal charges against Degamo, which they said suggests that he and Palarca are hired killers, said Blancaflor in the same report. Police said Degamo was involved in a robbery in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, and that he also faces murder and robbery charges in Cebu.

Padrigao's widow, Teresita, was earlier reported to have accused Gingoog City Vice Mayor Marlon Kho of being the mastermind behind the killing of her husband. Kho denied this and filed defamation charges against Teresita, who denied having accused Kho in public.

Padrigao was the sixth journalist or media practitioner killed in the line of duty in 2008. The CMFR has recorded 77 journalists and media practitioners killed in the line of duty since 1986, 39 of whom were slain during the present administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Only two cases out of the 39 since 2001 have yielded convictions for the murderers.

Updates the Padrigao case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/98602

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