According to the local police, whose account is – at the very least – controversial, Ronnie Villamor was shot at around 1:30 p.m. on 14 November in the municipality of Milagros when he allegedly pulled out a firearm during an “encounter” with soldiers.
But his colleagues gave an entirely different version of events. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said Villamor, who was based in Masbate and freelanced for various media outlets on the island, had gone to cover a land survey in a locality known as Matanglad to be carried out by four surveyors at the landowner’s request. Villamor even told the local police in advance that the survey was going to take place.
However, when Villamor and the surveyors arrived at Matanglad, they were blocked by a group of soldiers. What Villamor pulled out at this point was not a firearm but a phone with which to call the police with the aim of resolving the problem. But the soldiers opened fire, killing him on the spot.
“The investigation’s initial findings clearly show that Ronnie Villamor was the victim of a terrible military blunder,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “So that no one can protect those responsible for the shooting by eliminating evidence or testimony, we urge the Philippine authorities to appoint a fully independent team to investigate this shocking murder.”
Villamor was the fourth Philippine journalist to be killed this year. Just four days before his murder, radio presenter Virgilio Maganes was gunned down by two men on a motor scooter outside his home in Villasis, in the northern province of Pangasinan, on the morning of 10 November.
The Philippines is ranked 136th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.