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Suspect in killing of radio journalist convicted; another acquitted in separate case

(CMFR/IFEX) - Two local courts recently decided two separate cases of work-related killing of broadcasters in Region XI (Davao Region). Eight out of the 78 work-related killing of journalists/media practitioners since 1986 happened in Region XI.

On 22 April 2009, Judge George Omelio of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 14 in Davao City acquitted a block-timer of the charge of murdering his fellow block-time radio broadcaster Fernando "Batman" Lintuan for lack of additional evidence to support the testimony of the prosecution's lone witness. Davao City is approximately 978 kilometres from Manila.

Meanwhile, Judge Albert Axalan of Branch 20 of the Digos City RTC convicted on 24 March Joy "Tungol" Anticamara, who gunned down block-time radio broadcaster Armando "Rachman" Pace, for homicide instead of murder. Digos City, the capital of Davao del Sur province, is about 995 kilometres southeast of Manila. Although it was promulgated on 29 April, the decision was signed on 24 March.

Since 2001, there have only been three convictions out of the 78 cases of murdered journalists - the killers of Marlene Esperat, Edgar Damalerio, and now, Pace. Forty journalists or 51 percent of the 78 were killed after Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001.

Acting on the accused's demurrer to evidence, the Davao RTC Branch 14 acquitted Leonilo Larosa in the Lintuan case after the prosecution failed to present new evidence against him. A demurrer is an application to dismiss the case, which the court or tribunal may grant or deny. The party demurring admits the facts of the preceding pleading to be true, but questions the sufficiency of facts for the case to proceed.

Larosa through his counsel filed a demurrer to evidence on 12 March 2008.

In his decision, Judge Omelio said the testimony of the 19-year-old witness in the Lintuan case was "irreconcilable, contradictory, and incompatible with his statements on other occasions." The inconsistencies "therefore made him ridiculous and unbelievable," Omelio added.

Lintuan was shot dead on 24 December 2007 by a gunman riding tandem with an accomplice on a motorcycle. Lintuan was in his car with two colleagues and had just left the dxGO radio station premises.

Lintuan was critical of the local government and was known to be a hard-hitting commentator in Davao. He also criticized the involvement of Larosa in his promotion of "Last Two", an illegal numbers game where the winning combination is taken from the last two numbers of the winning combination of the Sweepstakes.

Lintuan had been a radio broadcaster since the 1980s and was also a columnist for "Sun.Star Super Balita", a local newspaper in Davao. He was the first president of the Davao Sportswriters Association and was also a member of the Philippine Sports Commission.

In the other media murder case, the court sentenced gunman Anticamara to a maximum of 17 years in prison and to P151, 500 (approx. US$3, 200) in damages for the killing of Pace.

In his decision, Judge Axalan of the Digos City RTC said he was convinced that Anticamara killed Pace after a 16-year-old witness positively identified him as the gunman. But the court reduced the offense to homicide because "the evidence on record does not show that the motorcycle was purposely used to facilitate the commission of the crime" but "was used only in facilitating the escape."

(. . .)

To read the full alert, see:
http://tinyurl.com/cn9h2w

Updates the Pace case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/75954

For further information on the Lintuan case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/89312

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