Reporters Without Borders expressed deep concern about a murder attempt against journalist Danilo Aguirre who was critically ill in hospital after being shot in the stomach by a hit-man in General Santos, on Mindanao Island in southern Philippines.
Aguirre, aged 25, of the Mindanao Bulletin where he also works on marketing, joined the regional weekly in June this year. He was on his way to the newspaper’s offices on 4 October with photographer, Emmanuel Zaldivar.
Zaldivar spotted the gunman, who was wearing a ski mask, and a motorcycle helmet, and managed to push the journalist, who had his back turned. Despite this he was hit in the abdomen with a 45 calibre bullet. The gunman tried to take another shot at the two journalists but his gun jammed and he fled. Zaldivar, in a state of shock, said the attacker had seemed determined to kill them.
“Police, who have just had positive results in two other cases in which journalists were murdered, should now do their utmost to discover the motives and identity of whoever hired the hit-man,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
In a report of an investigation released in May 2005, Reporters Without Borders said of The Philippines: “The culture of violence cannot explain everything. There is a culture of impunity, for which the country’s highest authorities have a responsibility, that has allowed killers and those who hire them to murder so many journalists throughout the country”. Six journalists have already been killed in 2005 and as many have been the target of murder attempts.
Police have opened an investigation into the shooting and have not ruled out any hypothesis. Managing editor John Paul Jubelag told Reporters Without Borders that he could not be sure of the motives for the attack. “The kind of reports that Danilo Aguirre worked on were mainly linked to development problems and had nothing really controversial about them,” he said.
“Danilo Aguirre had not expressed an opinion on any sensitive political issues, even if our newspaper did recently do a report exposing abuses by judges and corruption in judicial circles,” he said.
Aguirre, who is married and the father of two children, is suffering from a serious haemorrhage and needed a blood transfusion. Six General Santos journalists have given blood to try to save him.
This latest incident comes at a time when the police chief for central Mindanao, Danny Mangila, had announced that an investigation into the murder of Rolando Morales, a General Santos journalist who was killed on 3 July this year, was about to lead to the arrest and charges against at least two suspects. Reporters Without Borders has also welcomed the arrest, on 14 September, of a suspect in the murder of Klein Cantoneros, a radio journalist who was shot dead on 3 May in Dipolog City. Several witnesses had reportedly identified Robert Woo as the killer.