Reporters Without Borders today called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to thoroughly investigate the murder of newspaper columnist and municipal consultant Orlando Mendoza, who was gunned down near his home in the city of Tarlac, 100 km north of Manila, on 2 April.
“Even if Mendoza handled land conflicts for the Tarlac municipal government, the authorities should not rule out the possibility that he was killed because of his work as a journalist,” the press freedom organisations said, urging the PNP to deploy investigators to establish the motives for the murder and identify those responsible.
Reporters Without Borders also noted that there has been no word of journalist and environmental activist Joey Estriber since he was kidnapped on 3 March in Aurora province.
Mendoza, 58, was a columnist for the Tarlac Profile and the chief editor of another local newspaper, the Tarlac Patrol. He was also secretary of the Tarlac radio and press club. Central Luzon Media Association president Abel Pablo said Mendoza also worked for the Tarlac municipal council as a consultant on land disputes.
Before getting into journalism in 1998, Mendoza worked for the agrarian reform department. Pablo said a journalist had accused him of forging papers to help peasants and landowners involved in property disputes.
Tarlac Patrol publisher Pacifico Guevarra told the Inquirer News Service he thought the Mendoza’s murder was more likely linked to his work on land disputes than his journalistic activities. Nonetheless, libel actions were brought against Guevarra and Mendoza last month by the Philippine Guardian Brotherhood (military fraternity) that was criticised in their articles. The courts ruled in their favour.
The police never identified any suspects in the July 2003 murder in Tarlac of columnist Bonifacio Gregorio of the Diaryo Banat.