Special task force will investigate columnist’s murder
The Philippine National Police set up a special task force on 28 which will be headed by senior superintendent Roldolfo Mendoza and chief superintendent Antonio Billones, regional police chief of Western Mindanao.
The announcement comes after President Gloria Arroyo said a "thorough investigation" would be carried out into the killing of Esperat.
Palace communications director Silvestre Afable said in a statement that "the government may also put up a reward for the immediate arrest of Esperat’s killer."
Reporters Without Borders would conduct a fact-finding visit to the Philippines from 7-13 April that would above all investigate the murders of journalists.
Prior to her death, Esperat waged a crusade against corruption.
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Newspaper columnist gunned down in front of her 10-year-old daughter
26 March 2005
Reporters Without Borders voiced "horror" today at the murder of newspaper columnist Marlyn Garcia Esperat of the weekly Midland Review, who was shot dead in her home in front of her 10-year-old daughter by two gunmen on the eve of Easter on 24 March in Tacurong, on the southern island of Mindanao.
Noting that this was the second murder of a journalist since the start of the year in the Philippines, the press freedom organization said in a letter to interior minister Angelo Reyes that there was an "urgent need to restore a climate that allows the press to work properly after repeated attacks that have gone completely unpunished."
The letter continued : "We call on you to take the necessary measures to protect journalists and to ensure that a serious investigation establishes the precise motives for Marlyn Garcia Esperat’s murder. No hypothesis should be ruled out, but it is already clear that she was probably killed because of her work as a journalist."
The letter concluded by announcing that a Reporters Without Borders would conduct a fact-finding visit to the Philippines from 7-13 April that would above all investigate the murders of journalists.
Aged 45, Marlyn Garcia Esperat was receiving police protection. But, shortly before her murder on 24 March, she allowed her police bodyguards to go home for Easter. The local police said two men burst into her home at around 7:30 p.m. and shot her in the head. Before firing the fatal shot, the gunman simply said : "Good night, dear lady." The police quoted witnesses as saying the two killers then calmly left on foot.
Tacurong police chief Raul Supiter told the newspaper Mindanews: "We have not yet established the motives for this murder but it has not been ruled out that she was killed because of her journalistic activities." Marlyn Garcia Esperat waged a crusade against corruption and was known for scathing commentaries. The daily Inquirer said that, shortly before her death, she had written about nepotism in the town of Sultan Sa Barongis and the embezzlement of around 750 000 euros from the agricultural department’s local office.
The Philippines is the world’s most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq. 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. 2005 seems to be very murderous too. Arnulfo Villanueva, reporter with the Asian Star Express Balita newspaper, was found dead in Naic (in Cavite province south of Manila) on 28 February. At least six other journalists have been physically attacked or threatened with death since the start of the year.