Benjie Caballero, the manager of Radyo ni Juan in Tacurong City, in the southern province of Sultan Kudarat, was shot five times in the chest by two men on a motorcycle outside his home on 30 October.
In a Facebook post just days before the attack, he had reported receiving threats, friends said. He headed the Sultan Kudarat Provincial Task Force on Media Security and was well known for being openly critical of a powerful political clan in the neighbouring province of Maguindanao.
He underwent surgery to two gunshot injuries to his lungs in a private hospital in Davao City and remained hospitalized until he finally died of complications from pneumonia yesterday. Less than a week ago, his family issued an urgent appeal for donations to help pay his hospital bills.
“Benjie Caballero’s death is all the more shocking because it undoubtedly could have been avoided if the authorities had provided the resources needed to ensure that he survived his injuries,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“The fact that he was personally involved in the safety of his fellow journalists adds a tragic dimension to his death. In this case more than ever, the authorities must identify and punish the perpetrators and instigators, so that this murder does not go unpunished as so many do in the Philippines.”
Tacurong City, where Caballero was gunned down, is just 40 km from the town of Ampatuan, where 32 journalists were killed ten years ago, on 23 November 2009, in what was the biggest massacre of media personnel in history.
In a press release on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the massacre, RSF described the many obstacles that have been encountered in the course of the investigation and prosecution of those presumed responsible. A verdict is finally expected on 19 December.
The Philippines is ranked 134th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.