Police file charges against slain journalist’s estranged wife, 7 others
SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur, Philippines—Police authorities in Tandag City on Thursday filed murder charges against eight people, including the estranged wife of slain broadcaster Michael D. Milo.
In the case filed before the city prosecutor’s office, the police named Milo’s estranged wife April; her siblings Arnel and Bernie Ann Fernandez; her alleged lover PO1 Hildo Patrimonio; and four John Does.
Milo was killed as he was driving home on a motorcycle on Dec. 6. Witnesses said three gunmen took turns in shooting him.
The filing of the murder charges against suspects in the Milo case was announced almost at the same time that police authorities in Tagum City, where broadcaster Rogelio Butalid was killed on Wednesday, also revealed that they have uncovered possible leads that could lead to the resolution of the case.
Senior Supt. Samuel Gadingan, Davao del Norte police director, said investigators had narrowed down the leads to politics, job as commentator and personal grudges.
At the time of his death, Butalid was commentator for the National Electrification Administration faction of the Davao del Norte Electric Coop., which is often locked into violent confrontation with a pro-cooperative Daneco faction.
Gadingan said being a village official, Butalid might have feuded with fellow politicians.
“A special investigative task group codenamed “Tata Butalid” has been activated to handle the investigation, according to Gadingan.
Tagum City Mayor Allan Rellon, an ally of the slain broadcaster, announced a reward kitty of P100,000 “from personal funds” to speed up the resolution of the Butalid murder case.
“I consider this a high-profile incident not only because Kagawad Tata was a journalist, but also because he’s a colleague in public service. I’m extending whatever assistance to help in the investigation and resolution of this case,” Rellon said.
The Asia division of the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged President Aquino to declare as a “national catastrophe” the attacks on journalists as it “threatens civil liberties” in the country.
Carlos Conde, HRW Philippine researcher, described the deadly attacks on journalists in the Philippines, as “no less than a war against the media” requiring immediate action.
“In just the past two weeks, the body count in this war has surged: three dead journalists and one wounded in attacks perpetrated by unidentified gunmen,” Conde said in an HRW dispatch.
Conde said HRW was unhappy over the response the Aquino government has taken because while its officials have pledged their commitment to ending attacks on journalists, they have also sought to downplay them.
“Such official inaction is unacceptable,” he said.
Conde also urged the police to “look beyond the gunmen to the individuals ultimately responsible” for the killings.
“They should probe threats against journalists to prevent and deter future attacks. The government also needs to work with media companies, particularly broadcast networks, on strategies to better protect journalists,” he said.
Journalists in both Tagum City and in Surigao del Sur said they have become fearful because those behind the killings have managed to remain scot-free.
In separate statements, they said this would encourage people targeting other media personalities to order their assassinations as attacks against journalists remain unsolved.
(Chris Panganiban, Frinston Lim, Allan Nawal and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao)
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