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Radio broadcaster Nilo Labares seriously injured in murder attempt after reporting on illegal gambling, two suspects surrender to police but deny involvement

(CMFR/IFEX) - On 9 March 2009, two individuals suspected of being involved in an attempt to murder a Cagayan de Oro-City based radio broadcaster surrendered to the local police. Both suspects, however, denied involvement in the murder attempt.

On 5 March, a gunman riding tandem on a motorcycle shot radio broadcaster Nilo Labares in the back at around 8:00 p.m. (local time) in the village of Macasandig, in Cagayan de Oro City. Cagayan de Oro City, in the province of Misamis Oriental, is located approximately 789 kilometres from Manila. The attack happened a few meters from Labares's house.

The head of the Labares Task Force, Colonel Bernard Mendoza, of the Philippine National Police, told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) in a telephone interview that two of the four suspects voluntarily turned themselves in to the city's police director on the morning of 9 March.

The two suspects allegedly found out that they had been named by Labares in a 7 March sworn statement. They were accompanied by their lawyer. Mendoza refused to name the suspects.

In a 6 March telephone interview, Mendoza told CMFR that at least four men on two Honda XRM-type motorcycles followed Labares on his way home from the radio station. Labares was on his scooter.

DxCC-Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) news manager Rey Maraunay told CMFR on 6 March that Labares went home at around 7:30 p.m. after he finished recording news reports for dxCC's morning news programme. Labares is dxCC's chief of reporters as well as an anchor for its news and public affairs programme "dxCC Express", which is aired from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

According to witnesses, Mendoza said, a red motorcycle overtook Labares and blocked the road while a man riding behind the driver of a blue motorcycle shot Labares. Labares fell on the left side of the road.

Mendoza said the assailants then turned to check on Labares. Labares pretended he was pulling out a gun and the men backed off. He then ran towards a carwash station. The men tried to go after him but changed their minds after seeing a number of bystanders.

Labares was rushed to Maria Reyna Hospital. Doctors at the hospital declared him out of danger after they removed one of his kidneys, the online news site Bulatlat reported. Maraunay told CMFR that the bullet nearly hit Labares's stomach and damaged his kidney and liver.

The police and the local office of the National Bureau of Investigation were scheduled to file a joint investigation report before the Office of the City Prosecutor on 9 March Mendoza said.

DxCC's Maraunay said they suspect the attack was linked to Labares's reports on illegal gambling activities such as video karera and cockfighting in Cagayan de Oro. Video karera is an illegal virtual horse-race betting game in the Philippines. Labares had been receiving death threats on his mobile phone for almost two weeks, which he reported to the police.

"He might have earned the ire of the owners of the video karera stations," Maraunay said.

Lawyer Reggie Jularbal, legal counsel for the Association of Broadcasters of the Philippines (Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas, KBP), told GMANews.TV that the KBP is cooperating with Task Force 211 Chief Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor on the case. TF 211 is a Department of Justice task force charged with investigating the assassinations of political activists and journalists.

In 2008, two RMN radio broadcasters - Dennis Cuesta and Martin Roxas - were killed in the line of duty. Cuesta of dxMD-RMN in General Santos City died on 9 August 2008, five days after being shot along a national highway. Martin Roxas, of dyVR-RMN Roxas City, was killed on his way home from the radio station on 7 August. Both Cuesta and Roxas were known for discussing alleged illegal activities in their provinces.

Seventy-eight journalists and media practitioners have been killed in the line of duty since 1986.

Ernie Rollin, also a radio broadcaster, was killed by an unidentified gunman on his way to work on 23 February 2009 in Oroquieta City, Misamis Occidental. Rollin was the first journalist or media practitioner killed in the line of duty in 2009.

For further information on the Cuesta case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/100888

For further information on the Roxas case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/95964

For further information the Rollin case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/101039

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