Palace reporter shot 7 times, in critical conditionBy Niña Calleja
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Before he fell unconscious in the hospital’s operating room, Fernan Jose Angeles, a Malacañang reporter for The Daily Tribune newspaper, whispered to his wife the name of a man. The police are now looking for the man.
Angeles, 42, was shot seven times around 10 p.m. on Sunday presumably by a man he was seen arguing with in a dark alley near Evangelista Street in Barangay (village) Palatiw, Pasig City, close to where he lives.
Angeles’ condition was described by doctors at Pasig City General Hospital as critical and unstable. As of 1 p.m. Monday, he was conscious.
“He whispered a name. But we are not sure if it’s the one who gave the order to shoot him, or who shot him, or whom he last saw before the shooting happened,” the case investigator, Senior Police Officer 1 Lardy Ignacio, told reporters.
Ignacio refused to give the name, saying the information had to be verified first. The police would not say what the possible motive was behind the latest attack on a member of the media.
“Not yet,” Angeles’ wife, Gemma, said when asked about the name her husband had given her.
Angeles suffered seven gunshot wounds in his abdomen, chest, back and thigh.
Malacañang expressed shock at the news and said Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo had ordered a “thorough investigation.”
Angeles is fairly new in the Malacañang beat, having been assigned to cover the Palace only in January. He is known to fellow reporters for his hard questioning on issues of the day and is not averse to expressing his views in or out of press briefings.
Casually walked away
According to initial police findings, the shooting happened during an argument between the victim and a still unidentified man a short distance from the reporter’s house in Barangay Pinagbuhatan.
Ignacio said several people heard gunshots before one of the two men “casually walked away.” The other man, Angeles, had fallen to the ground and was crawling while pleading for help, Ignacio said.
He said this was the only information police could gather from the accounts of people at or near the scene. They later refused to give any more details “either because of fear or simply indifference,” he said.
Ignacio said he thought the witnesses could fully describe the gunman but would not cooperate with the police.
Asked if the shooting was work-related, Senior Superintendent Jessie Cardona, Pasig police chief, said: “That is something we still don’t know.”
Angeles’ wife Gemma, however, thought an illegal drug syndicate, which Angeles exposed in an opinion column in a local magazine last year, could be involved in the attack.
Apart from whispering a name to her, Gemma said Angeles also asked her to immediately contact former Chief Superintendent Francisco Manalo, the Eastern Police District director who retired last week, and officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Gemma expressed uneasiness in dealing with the police, saying some of them “might know something” about what happened. “Why would the police hastily clean up the crime scene?” she asked.
Prior to the shooting, Gemma said Angeles told her he was going out to buy “load” for his Internet connection. An hour later, a barangay official came to their house to tell her that her husband had been shot and wounded.
A bullcap and one deformed slug of a .45 caliber pistol were all that investigators found at the scene.
No death threats
“The attempt on my husband’s life was unexpected even if I knew him as a hard-hitting journalist. It just never crossed my mind,” Gemma said outside the ICU, where two policeman stood guard.
She said her husband had never received a death threat in his 20 years as a journalist.
Angeles was a reporter for Manila Bulletin for 17 years before writing for local magazines and tabloids. He started working for the Tribune only in January.
“We were shocked by this,” Chito Lozada, a Tribune deputy editor, said on the phone. He said he was not aware of any stories Angeles had written or was working on that could be related to the shooting.
Lozada said it would not be right to conclude at once that the incident was related to his job as a reporter.
Security for family
“We will rely on the results of the investigation,” he said. ‘’We are just hoping that the police would be able to arrest the suspects immediately.”
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Malacañang was “deeply shocked.”
He said the Palace had contacted Angeles’ wife to offer assistance to the family and expressed hope for the “speedy recovery” of Angeles.
“We will make sure that the safety of Fernan and also the family will be ensured,’’ Lacierda said.
The Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) condemned the attack and urged the government to get to the bottom of it.
MPC president Joyce Panares of Standard Today quoted Angeles’ wife as saying that her husband knew his attacker and that “he was afraid because someone influential was behind it.’’
“We are outraged and demand a thorough probe,” Panares said. “We hold the Aquino administration to its word that there will be no sacred cows in cases of wrongdoings and that it gives primacy to press freedom and the protection of media practitioners.”
Identify and arrest
The Philippine National Police (PNP) expressed its “strongest condemnation” of what happened.
“What we can share at the moment is… that the attack was the result of a melee or brawl that erupted in Fernan Angeles’ neighborhood,” said the PNP spokesperson, Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr.
PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome directed the National Capital Region Police Office and the Eastern Police District to “immediately identify and arrest those responsible.”
Cruz said the PNP Task Force Usig, which handled cases of media killings, would extend “every possible assistance” as well as security to Angeles’ family.
Journalists have been the targets of violence since democracy was restored in the Philippines in 1986. Since that year, 150 members of the media have been killed in the country, according to a tally of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has ranked the Philippines as the second-deadliest country for journalists next to Iraq. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño, Dona Pazzibugan and Philip C. Tubeza