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Second journalist killed in a week

(CMFR/IFEX) – Two media workers were killed by unidentified gunmen in separate incidents in the second week of June 2009. Police have yet to establish the motives behind the killings.

On 12 June 2009, print journalist Antonio Castillo died three hours after being shot by a gunman who later fled on motorcycle in Uson town, Masbate province, approximately 403 kilometers from Manila.

Three days earlier Crispin Perez Jr., a radio commentator at the local government-owned FM radio station dwDO in San Jose City, Occidental Mindoro province, died in hospital of gunshot wounds inflicted by an unknown gunman outside his home at around 10:00 a.m. (local time). Occidental Mindoro is approximately 156 kilometers south from Manila. Earlier reports said Perez had been stabbed, but Major Alberto Villapando, head of the police team assigned to investigate the case, told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) in a phone interview that Perez sustained two gunshot wounds from a .45 caliber handgun.

Perez' widow Irene told CMFR in another phone interview that she saw the gunman talking to her husband outside their home. After hearing two gunshots, she reported seeing the assailant holding the gun. She was unable to chase the gunman who immediately boarded a motorcycle after shooting Perez.

Perez was one of the three anchors on the "Sa Totoo Lang" ("For Real") program, which aired weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Station manager Ferdie Data told CMFR in a phone interview that the public affairs program promoted government projects and addressed issues in government. The two other anchors were also government officials who were both members of a barangay (village) council, he said.

Perez, who was a lawyer and a former Occidental Mindoro vice governor (July 1992 to July 1995), joined the program in the third week of May. Since January 2009, Perez also had his own program every Saturday, which was aired simultaneously at dwDO and Radyo Natin stations from 12 to 1 p.m.

Irene Perez said her husband also worked as a radio commentator from 2003 to 2004 at dzYM station, but had stopped to focus on his private legal practice and , recently, to work as a part-time municipal legal consultant.

Irene Perez and Data believe Perez' killing may be work-related. Perez may have made enemies for his criticisms of mining and of a supply contract between a local cooperative and a private power firm, among other issues, Data said.

In Masbate, local police said they have yet to establish why columnist Antonio Castillo was killed. Uson town police chief Senior Inspector Aurora Moran told CMFR in a 15 June 2009 phone interview that they had yet to conclude their investigation on the killing of Castillo, a columnist for the local tabloid "Bigwas" ("Blow").

At around 9:00 a.m. on 12 June, a gunman on a motorcycle shot Castillo, who was himself on a motorcycle on the national highway in Marcella village, Uson town. Willy Salazar, a journalist in the Bicol region and a member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, told CMFR that Castillo was on his way home when the incident happened.

GMANews.TV quoted Moran as saying that “He (Castillo) was chased up to Sawang village (Uson town) where he sought refuge in a house and the attackers fled." Castillo was rushed to the Masbate Provincial Hospital by members of the Philippine Army stationed in Uson.

The 14 June issue of the "Manila Bulletin" reported that investigators thought Castillo would survive and could identify his assailants, but Castillo died three hours after the attack.

Moran explained in a phone interview that Castillo told police investigators that he recognized the gunman and driver but refused to give their names when asked at the hospital. A police report said the gunman was wearing a light blue shirt and no helmet, while the driver was wearing a black jacket and a red helmet.
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    An unidentified attacker stabbed and fatally shot Crispin Perez in San Jose in the central Philippines.

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