Cops unfazed as suspects in broadcaster’s killers remain at large
DIGOS CITY, Philippines – Police authorities said the manhunt against the suspected killers of 57-year-old broadcaster Samuel Oliverio has yielded nothing, as of Sunday, but this has not discouraged the lawmen.
Superintendent Querubin Manalang, city police director, said lawmen were sent to various areas of the province thought to be used by two suspects as hideaways but they were empty-handed as of Sunday.
“We are still trying our best to find them,” he said, adding that the suspects had been positively identified by witnesses.
Oliverio, who hosted several programs on local radio stations here, was shot twice in the head and nape by two men riding in tandem on a motorbike on Friday morning. He died instantly and became the third Digos City journalist to have been killed after Armando Pace (2006), and Nestor Bedolido (2010).
His common-law wife, Rowena Baylosis, was injured when the motorcycle the couple was riding crashed on the pavement. Baylosis had described the assassins as young-looking and that they did not wear masks.
Senior Superintendent Michael John Dubria, provincial police director, said the police have organized the Task Force Oliverio.
He said all police units were made members of the group.
“Malacañang has pressured us to solve the case at the soonest time possible,” he admitted.
Rowena Caranza-Paraan, chair of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, said they had expected the police to create “yet another task force.”
“We can almost predict what comes next: police setting up another of those useless task forces that have so far failed to nail any of the masterminds in the 163 media murders before Oliverio’s, and the government vowing to bring his case to justice just as it has failed to do with all the other cases,” Paraan said.
Dubria said he understood the furor but asked journalists to trust the police too.
“Suspects have been identified shortly after the killing of Oliverio. We secured witnesses. This showed that we were working to solve this case,” he said.
Manalang said the suspects would eventually be caught.
He also said that murder charges have been prepared against the two suspects and that it could be filed on Monday or Tuesday.
Manalang said he could not comment on rumors that the suspects had worked for a politician but he could confirm that the two suspects were guns-for-hire and that there was a mastermind behind the killing.
Although he had mellowed down in his commentaries after suffering from a mild stroke two months ago, Oliverio was known for his humor-filled but scathing commentaries against supposed crooks in the government.
He was also known to tackle the failure of authorities to stop illegal gambling and drugs.
“The task force will be meeting on Monday to explore other possible suspects,” Manalang said.
Members of the Davao del Sur media believe that Oliverio’s death was the handiwork of “influential people” who wanted to stifle media freedom.
“They wanted us to be silent about the proliferation of illegal gambling and illegal drugs. Some politicians are allegedly involved in this,” Arvin Malaza, owner of Muews Radio, said.
Malaza, who also hosts the program “Isumbong kang Jun Blanco,” said the killing of Oliverio would not deter him from delivering harsh commentaries against the failure of authorities to stop unlawful activities here; and against politicians, who have done nothing but enriched themselves while in office.
The threats are always there, but it is the job of journalists to bring the truth out, no matter how painful it could be to some people, according to Malaza.
Inquirer editor Allan Nawal was among those who have been threatened by syndicates suspected to be involved in illegal drugs and gambling.
Instead of getting police protection, Nawal has been jailed for deterring attempted attacks on him in June last year.
He now faces charges of grave threats and serious illegal detention for holding and turning over a suspect to the police.
Nawal in turn filed oppression and arbitrary detention charges against the former city police chief, Supt. Joe Neil Rojo, and continues to fight in court the case filed against him, through the help of the Union of People’s Lawyer in Mindanao (UPLM) and the Center for International Law Phils. (CenterLaw). He is also being assisted by the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
“The trumped up charges against me could still be the work of whoever wanted me killed,” he said.
Oliverio was the 164th journalist killed since 1986 and the 28th under President Aquino’s administration, according to the NUJP.
Bayan Muna Representative Isagani Carlos Zarate has said it is clear that “the state of impunity under the Aquino administration is worsening.”
“More and more journalists, activists and critics of the government are being killed,” he said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the murders and has urged the government to do something about them.
“The murders reaffirmed the Philippines’ reputation as one of the deadliest places in the world for a journalist,” Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, said.
Dietz said until the perpetrators of these murders were brought to justice, “the deadly cycle of impunity will inevitably continue.”
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