Reporters Without Borders voiced shock today at the murder dzJC Aksyon Radyo reporter Andres “Andy” Acosta in Batac (in the northern province of Ilocos Norte) on 20 December and the attempted murder of Rufino “Butch” Gamboa, the correspondent of radios dwNE and dzMM in San Jose (in the Central Luzon region) two days later.
“The identity and motives of those responsible are not yet known, and it is essential that the investigators do not rule out any hypothesis, including the possibility that the victims were targeted because of their work as journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The unending violence against journalists will only be stopped if the police and judicial authorities act with determination,” the press freedom organisation added. “Six journalists were murdered in connection with their work in 2006 in the Philippines, which makes it the third most dangerous country for the press, after Iraq and Mexico.”
The attempted murder of Gamboa occurred as he was returning from a news conference in San Jose on 22 December on a motorcycle-taxi. Two men on a motorcycle fired at him several times, but he threw himself to the ground and, despite being hit in the chest and left leg, was able to escape. The taxi driver was unhurt. The radio station dwNE is controlled by the Nueva Ecija provincial government.
Acosta, 46, was stabbed to death. Witnesses said he was driving by motorcycle along a road in Batac on 20 December when he stopped and then suddenly collapsed. He had been stabbed three times with an ice-pick in unclear circumstances. He died while being rushed to hospital. The police have not yet arrested any suspect.
The investigating police officer, Bienvenido Rayco, did not rule out the possibility that he was murdered because of his work. But dzJC Aksyon-Radyo director Diomedes Lorenzo said that, while Acosta had worked on cases linked to the police for the past nine years, he had not been working on anything sensitive at the time of his murder. Acosta also wrote for a community publication called Northern Light.
Without going into any detail, a police officer said on 25 December that initial enquiries indicated the motive was not related to Acosta's work as a journalist. The investigators could be concentrating on the theory that the motive was revenge for the fact that Acosta had encouraged his son to testify in a murder trial.
Another dzJC journalist, Roger Mariano, was killed in 2004 because of his reporting and a former policeman, Apolonio Medrano, is to be tried for his murder.