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Radio journalist killed, case filed against suspect

(CMFR/IFEX) - A murder complaint against the alleged killer of radio blocktimer Ismael Pasigna has been filed before a court in the town of Labason in Zamboanga del Norte, approximately 745 km from Manila.

Labason's mayor, Wilfredo Balais, told CMFR on 19 January 2010 that the case against the alleged hired gunman who killed Pasigna was filed on 18 January. Balais refused to release the suspect's name.

A gunman on a motorcycle shot Pasigna on his way to work in Labason on 24 December 2009 at around 6:55 a.m. (local time). The incident took place around 30 to 40 km from the town mayor's house, where Pasigna had come from. Balais said Pasigna usually passed by his house before going to the radio station.

Pasigna died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Pasigna was one of the anchors of the government-funded blocktime program "South Express Balita" aired on B-96 FM each morning at 7 a.m. He started working as a radio announcer in August 2009. Neneng, the widow of Pasigna, and Balais said the program focused on the progress of local government projects and was not critical. "He was just speaking the truth," Neneng told CMFR on 19 January.

In a 13 January interview, Police Inspector Chamber Lacay said the police investigation suggests that the incident was election-related.

Balais also believes the incident was politically-motivated. He allegedly received an anonymous text message after the killing of Pasigna saying that he would be the next victim. Both Pasigna and Balais are members of the Alliance Party for Progress, a local political party in Zamboanga del Norte.

Neneng, in a separate interview, said however that there is a possibility that the killing could be related to her husband's radio work. Neneng said that Pasigna had reported on a controversy regarding the filing of a certificate of candidacy by a political party in Zamboanga del Norte.

The killing of Pasigna occurred a month after the most deadly work-related killing of journalists in Philippine history. More than 30 journalists and media workers covering the filing of a local candidate's (Esmael Mangudadatu) certificate of candidacy were killed in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province. The perpetrators were allegedly led by Datu Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr., the supposed rival of vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu in the province's gubernatorial elections.

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