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Radio journalist Ernesto Rollin gunned down in Mindanao

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the 23 February 2009 murder of Ernesto Rollin, a presenter on local radio DxSY-AM in Ozamiz City, in Misamis Occidental province (on the southern island of Mindanao). Rollin was the first journalist to be killed this year in the Philippines, but the 99th since the return to democracy in 1986.

Aged about 40, Rollin was gunned down at close range at about 5:30 a.m. (local time) in a service station in nearby Oroquieta City. He was attacked by two men in caps and ski masks aboard a motorcycle, who checked to see he was dead before they drove away. Rollin was on his way to host his 7:30-9:00 a.m. programme.

"We firmly condemn the murder of Rollin, the latest victim of a culture of violence and impunity that has ravaged the media in the Philippines for too long," Reporters Without Borders said. "The motive has not yet been established but the modus operandi indicates it was a contract killing ordered by Rollin's enemies and carried out by professional hit-men."

The killers clearly knew that Rollin was in the habit of parking his car in the service station before catching a bus. His companion, Ligaya, said she heard the shots before seeing Rollin lying face-down on the ground. She rushed to him and tried to lift him up, but one of the gunmen fired a last shot in the back of his neck. This was almost certainly the fatal shot, Ligaya said, adding: "I had not expected that Ernie would be targeted."

According to his colleagues, including the Ozamiz City representative of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Rollin was well-known for being outspoken. In recent programmes he had covered a controversial decree concerning health workers and the use of cars by officials in Misamis Occidental province.

Justice Under-Secretary Ricardo Blancaflor announced that police superintendent Leonilo Cabug had been put in charge of a special unit tasked with identifying and arresting the suspects. "As of this moment, elements of the task force headed by Leonilo Cabug are investigating the incident to determine the possible motive behind the killing," Blancaflor said.

Rollin had worked as a journalist for the past 10 years or so. His outspoken comments on his prime-time current affairs programme on DxSY-AM had made him popular in the province.

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