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Alleged gunman in 2004 murder of journalist killed

(CMFR/IFEX) - On 19 October 2009, a police officer shot to death the alleged gunman in the 2004 killing of a Batangas-based journalist. The shooting, which the police said was accidental, took place a day before the alleged gunman's arraignment. Batangas is a province located approximately 90 kilometers from Manila.

Three policemen were bringing Michael Garcia, the suspected gunman in the killing of broadcaster Arnel Manalo, to the Batangas provincial jail from the prosecutor's office when the shooting happened. According to a "Philippine Daily Inquirer" report, police officer Jose Rommel Ajena accidentally shot Garcia in the head when he allegedly tried to grab a firearm from the driver of the patrol car.

Bauan Police Chief Superintendent Cosme Abrenica told the "Pilipino Star Ngayon" newspaper in a 20 October 2009 report that "(it is) very unfortunate that this incident happened, thankfully my men were alert, otherwise they could also have been killed."

The "Philippine Daily Inquirer" said Garcia was apprehended by the Masbate police on 14 October and was turned over to the Bauan municipal jail on 19 October.

On 5 August 2004, a gunman riding tandem on a motorcycle shot Manalo, a correspondent for dzRH radio station and the Manila-based tabloid "Bulgar". Manalo and his brother Apollo were on their way home and traveling along a national highway in Manghinaw Village, Bauan, Batangas City, when he was killed.

Abrenica told the "Pilipino Star Ngayon" that the Bauan police would still conduct further investigations to dispel any rumours of foul play.

Since Garcia had not been arraigned, lawyer Prima Jesusa Quinsayas, legal counsel for the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), said the criminal case against Garcia cannot proceed. She said concerned parties could request that the police re-investigate the case and look for others possibly involved in the killing of Manalo.

FFFJ is a coalition of six media organizations formed to address the continuing killings of and attacks against journalists in the Philippines. CMFR is a founding member and serves as the secretariat of FFFJ.

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