Reporters Without Borders urged interior and local government secretary Angelo Reyes to take steps to protect journalists after Arnulfo Villanueva, columnist on the Asian Star Express Balita newspaper was gunned down in Naic, south of Manila. At least six other journalists have received death threats or been physically attacked in the country since the start of the year.
Journalist Arnulfo Villanueva, a columnist on the newspaper Asian Star Express Balita, has been shot dead, the first journalist to be killed in 2005. Six more have had death threats or suffered brutal attack since the start of the year. Reporters Without Borders expressed indignation and alarm at this latest killing and the run of attacks and urged interior and local government secretary Angelo Reyes to protect journalists and ensure that a thorough investigation established the reasons for the murder. "Nothing should be ruled out," it said. "It is urgent that a favourable climate should be restored in which journalists can work freely," said the worldwide press freedom organisation added. Six journalists were killed in the country during 2004 simply for doing their job, around ten survived murder attempts and seven others were killed but for reasons that were unclear. Villanueva, who was 43, was found dead on 28 February by the roadside in Naic, Cavite Province, south of Manila. His body was riddled with bullets. The motives for the killing are unclear. Villanueva recently criticised local officials who reportedly organise illegally gaming in the province Police have not ruled out a crime of passion. Shortly before he died, Villanueva was seen on his moped accompanied by a woman. Naic police chief Pablo Zorilla, said that his officers were looking for her to find out more about the circumstances of the murder. Six journalists in danger Two staff members of the weekly Deretso Balita, Dodie Banzuela and Iring Maranan, received phoned anonymous death threats on 20 February. These two journalists, working in San Pablo, south of Manila, who regularly expose corruption, had recently named a leading local official. In a 15 February statement issued by The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in Olongapo City - Subic Bay, west of Manila, 13 local journalists accused soldiers of asking a local gang, the Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan (RHB), to kill the correspondent of the Pilipino Star Ngayon, Jeff Tombado, who had written a series of articles criticising General Jose Calimlim. Columnist Pablo Hernandez, of the tabloid Bulgar was badly injured in an attack with an ice pick at a billiard hall in Quezon City, northern Philippines. Police immediately arrested his assailant, Joel Reduca, 34, who said a police officer, Bonito Antenunes and four other people, had offered him 20,000 pesos (about 270 euros) to kill Hernandez. On 9 February, a suspect, police superintendent, Demosthenes Felix, gave himself up to the authorities but denied all involvement in the case. Radio presenter Jess Abarondo, working for DWDD radio, controlled by the members of the military, was stabbed in the neck with a screw driver in Antipolo City, near Manila as he investigated illegal production and pirating of video discs (VCDs). His assailant is still on the run and police are investigating the reasons for the attack. Regional weekly newspaper editor Maximo Quindao, of Mindanao Truck News, was left badly injured with four bullet wounds to the chest after two assailants on a motorbike opened fire on him on 29 January in Tagum, southern Philippines. Police have failed to track down the gunmen and the motive for the attack was unknown. According to his wife, Quindao, a former journalist on Bombo Radyo, could have been targeted over articles he wrote attacking politicians in Davao del Norte province, Mindanao Island. The journalist had launched a robust press campaign against two Tagum officials.