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‘My husband died exposing anomalies’

Iriga City, Philippines—As his widow put it, Romeo Olea was big in exposés but earned little as a radio broadcaster, yet he still ended up paying for what he did with his own life.

Raquel was standing at the gate of her home past 6 a.m. on Monday when a police car arrived. An officer got off and approached her with a request: Would she go with him to the station?

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Though she herself was a civilian employee of the Iriga City police, Raquel found the request quite odd—and ominous. That’s when she learned that her husband had been shot dead on his way to work less than an hour earlier.

In an interview on Monday, a still inconsolable Raquel recalled having pleaded with Olea to go slow with his exposés in his daily show on dwEB-FM, warning that he may be courting grave danger for a job that didn’t pay much.

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“But he told me that if he stopped making an exposé, nobody else will do the job,” she said.

Raquel, 46, said Olea told her about the threats he had received even before his radio program, “Anything Goes,” went on air three months ago.

She begged the government to solve her husband’s murder immediately, saying letting the case turn cold would only embolden the perpetrators.

Now echoing her husband’s reason for doing his job, Raquel asked: “What will happen if no one will inform the public about anomalies?”

Olea was en route to his radio station on Monday when he was shot twice in the back in front of the Holy Child Learning Center at Barangay San Jose in Iriga City, according to police. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Malacañang has condemned the latest media killing, the sixth under the Aquino administration, hailing Olea as a “crusading journalist” and vowing prompt action on the case.

Second victim

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Olea was the second broadcaster of dwEB, a station located in Nabua town in Camarines Sur, to be killed in less than a year.

Miguel Belen, 48, died in hospital a month after he was shot seven times by assailants on a motorcycle on July 9, 2010. Like Olea, Belen was attacked while on his way to report at dwEB.

Police has since tagged Eric Vargas, 34, as the motorcycle driver, and Gina Bagacina, allegedly a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), as Belen’s assassin.

Jing Florece, acting assistant manager of dwEB, recalled that before Olea was killed, the latter had been tackling issues in his 30-minute program involving the Alfelor family, a prominent political clan in Iriga.

Florece said the most recent issue discussed by Olea revolved around an incident during a basketball tournament in the city.

He said Olea had obtained a supposed voice clip from the game, particularly that of a heated exchange between Iriga City Mayor Madelaine Alfelor Gazmen and an unidentified person.

Florece said a melee broke out between the competing teams after Gazmen reportedly ordered the game stopped because her favored team was losing.

‘Our No. 1 critic’

Reached for comment on Tuesday, Gazmen acknowledged the slain broadcaster as “our No. 1 critic,” but the mayor maintained that she never minded Olea’s comments.

The mayor said she often ignored Olea’s tirades, knowing that he worked for a station which she said was biased in favor of Camarines Sur Gov. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr.

According to Florece, dwEB-FM is owned by Rene Magtoto, a relative of Villafuerte.

As to the basketball game mentioned by Olea on his program, Gazmen recalled that at one point in the game her son told her that someone in the crowd shouted to insult her.

The clip, she said, apparently captured the moment when she was asking her son who that person was.

“I extend my sincere condolences to the bereaved family of Romy Olea. Even if he is our No. 1 critic, we still sympathize (with his family). He has been a critic since Day One of my first term. He never appreciated my projects and programs,” Gazmen said.

Power co-op also hit

Florece said Olea also tackled issues concerning Camarines Sur III Electric Cooperative (Casureco III) where Gazmen’s relative Ganggang Alfelor served as board chair.

He said Olea criticized the supposed favors being extended by Casureco III to the Alfelor family despite its unpaid electric bills amounting to millions of pesos.

Florece said Olea also discussed alleged anomalies involving barangay chiefs allied with Gazmen and the Alfelors, as well as schools owned and operated by the mayor’s family.

In a statement, Governor Villafuerte also called for the immediate resolution of Olea’s murder.

“We cannot and should not ignore the blatant media killings in Camarines Sur. I appeal to Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, both of whom are from Camarines Sur, to help us solve the media killings. It has been one unresolved crime after another,” Villafuerte said.

Olea is survived by his wife and two children—Jester Angelo, 20 and Janri, 13.

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TAGS: Bicol Region, Iriga City, Media killings, Murder, radio broadcaster, Romeo Olea
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