Blocktimer slain outside Cebu City radio station
CEBU CITY—After wrapping up his radio program on dyRB around 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Rey Cortes stepped out of the station in a hurry to make it home fast for his wife’s birthday.
Just as he was about to get into his sport utility vehicle, a single gunshot rang out and Cortes fell to the ground.
The 46-year-old blocktimer was brought to Cebu Medical Center where he was declared dead less than two hours later.
Police were looking at his work as a hard-hitting commentator as a possible motive in the killing of Cortes, who years ago survived an earlier attempt on his life.
According to Maj. Dindo Juanito Alaras, chief of the Mambaling police station, investigators received reports that Cortes criticized several personalities, including politicians, in “Engkwentro,” his one-hour morning program aired on weekdays and also streamed live on Facebook.
20th to fall under Du30
“We learned that many individuals were mad at him. He had lots of enemies,” said Alaras in an interview.
The Inquirer learned that Cortes had received death threats, which he would talk about on air. He was the 20th journalist killed under the Duterte administration, according to groups monitoring violence directed at the media.
The Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Cebu chapter condemned the killing and called for a swift and impartial investigation.
“Whether he was a regular staff member or blocktimer of dyRB does not change this fact: he was a media practitioner whose killers should be arrested and prosecuted,” said CCPC executive director Pachico Seares.
The NUJP-Cebu added: “We extend our sincerest condolences to the Cortes family and join them in their time of grief. Attacks against journalists and media workers continue to rise and are being normalized simply for fulfilling our duties as watchdogs of society.”
Still no witnesses
“We further condemn the culture of impunity that emboldens these perpetrators to commit these crimes. We resist all threats and attempts to silence the media, to gag the Fourth Estate from bringing truth to power. We recognize that forwarding truth only emboldens more of these senseless killings,” it added.
Cortes’ wife, Kit, who works for another radio station, immediately went to the hospital after learning about the attack. She declined to issue a statement other than that saying the police were considering the killing to be related to her husband’s work.
According to Councilor Dave Tumulak, he met Cortes at the radio station in Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City, since his program comes after that of Cortes. He even invited Cortes for breakfast in a nearby eatery but the broadcaster declined because he wanted to go home for his wife’s birthday.
Alaras admitted that the police had yet to have a lead on the shooter as “we do not have any witnesses for now. Not even the victim’s companion saw where the gunman stood.”
Investigators were checking videos of closed-circuit televisions near the crime scene, and also entertained the possibility that a sniper shot Cortes.
Counting 223 cases of attacks and threats against members of the media since 2016, CCPC raised concerns that another murder had been added to the list—and would likely remain unsolved.
“If a media worker’s life could be easily snuffed out, violence could replace democracy’s regular means of discourse. The Cortes murder appears to be work-related but even if it were not, it was still a disruption of Cebu’s peace and order, a desecration of community values should it go unpunished,” the group said.
Cortes’ killing brought to 20 the work-related attacks against media under the Duterte administration, based on Inquirer news reports and lists from the NUJP and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR).
2 victims in a week
Other media practitioners murdered from July 2016 to July 2021 include Apolinario Suan Jr., Larry Que, Mario Cantaoi, Marlon Muyco, Joaquin Briones, Rudy Alicaway, Leodoro Diaz, Christopher Lozada, Edmund Sestoso, Carlos Matas, Dennis Denora, Joey Llana, Gabby Alboro, Eduardo Dizon, Dindo Generoso, Cornelio Pepino, Jobert Bercasio, Virgilio Maganes, and Ronnie Villamor.Two journalists were killed within a week. Radio commentator and local newspaper writer Maganes was killed on Nov. 10 last year by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Pangasinan. A few days later, freelance journalist Villamor was gunned down by soldiers in Masbate in an “encounter” on Nov. 14.
In September 2020, Bercasio, an online news and commentary program handler was shot dead while he was driving his motorcycle in a subdivision in Barangay Cabid-an, Sorsogon.Radio reporter Pepino, or “Rex Cornelio,” was shot dead in Dumaguete in May 2020 while riding a motorcycle on his way home from work.
In December 2018, radio blocktimer Alboro was on his way home in Guihulngan City, when he was killed by two men on a motorcycle in La Libertad town, Negros Oriental.
In July 2018, Llana, a radio broadcaster for dwZR in Legazpi City, was leaving his home in Daraga town in Albay province when he was shot dead by unknown assassins
As of April 30, the CMFR has recorded at least 223 attacks and threats to journalists nationwide in the past four years. It said 19 of them were killed and the others faced various forms of harassment, including intimidation, libel threat, physical assault, arrest and being barred from coverage.