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Death squad responsible for killing of Filipino radio blocktimer, says Human Rights Watch report

A report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) released on 21 May 2014 said members of the "Tagum Death Squad" (TDS) were responsible for the killing of radio blocktimer Rogelio "Tata" Butalid in December 2013.

Human Rights Watch is an international organization that monitors human rights compliance "from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe."

In HRW's 71-page report titled "One Shot to the Head: Death Squad Killings in Tagum City, Philippines," HRW cited an unnamed witness in the killing of Butalid who allegedly told its research team that she recognized one of the killers as a Renster Azarcon, "one of the key members of the Tagum Death Squad," according to the report.

A masked man with an accomplice shot Butalid dead on 11 December 2013 as he was leaving work in Tagum City, Davao del Norte province, some 1,500 kilometers south of Manila.

Butalid was a blocktimer for Radyo Natin 107.9 FM, whose program, Ang Kamatuoran (The Truth), was sponsored by the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative-National Electrification Administration (Daneco-NEA).

"Blocktimers" buy "blocks" of radio or TV airtime for their programs, which they market to sponsors and advertisers.

Butalid was critical of officials of another faction of Daneco, the Cooperative Development Authority (Daneco-CDA). The factions were fighting for control of Daneco.

Two former members of the TDS, Romnick Minta and Jomarie Abayon, also told HRW they suspect that the death squad was behind Butalid's killing.

As of May 2014, CMFR has listed 141 journalists/media workers killed in the line of duty since 1986; 23 of whom were killed during the on-going presidency of Benigno S. Aquino III. Only 13 cases that reached the courts have at least one conviction.

According to the HRW report, the TDS is behind 298 extrajudicial killings in Davao province. It claims that the death squad was under the control of former Tagum City mayor Rey Uy but that some members had gone "freelance."

In the same day as the HRW report's release, InterAksyon.com reported that Uy had denied involvement with the death squad and added that certain individuals were out to destroy him politically. Uy is believed to be in the running again for the mayorship of Tagum.

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