Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the attempted murder of radio DXCC presenter Nilo Labares yesterday evening in Cagayan de Oro (in the north of Mindanao island). Labares was on his scooter when two men on a motorcycle shot him the back. Aged 48, married and the father of two children, he is still in a critical condition, his colleagues told Reporters Without Borders.
“We have seen a series of killings and attempted killings of radio presenters in the southern Philippines since the start of the year,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Appointing special teams of investigators is no longer enough. This climate of violence is encouraged by the lack of progress in certain cases in Mindanao and the glaring failure to punish those behind the murders of journalists. Why have the police been unable to arrest those who paid for Marlene Esperat and Edgar Damalerio to be killed?”
The press freedom organisation added: “This string of violent attacks has turned Mindanao island into one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists and we therefore ask the government to reinforce the police there.”
Also known as “Babayeng Bagol,” Labares is currently being treated in a Cagayan de Oro hospital, where he is conscious but in a critical condition. The bullet hit his liver, and doctors had to remove a kidney. A second operation was carried out today.
Labares hosts a daily programme on DXCC, a popular station that is part of the Radio Mindanao Network (RMN). His colleagues told Reporters Without Borders he often covers corruption and illegal activities such as clandestine gambling.
A DXCC journalist said Labares told his colleagues he had been threatened. He said he had been contacted by the emissary of a “powerful” local figure who had told him he would “pay dearly” if he continued to denounce illegal video game centres.
Cagayan de Oro deputy mayor Emano Labares said the radio presenter could have been targeted because of his criticism of illegal gambling. He said he had ordered the city’s police to do everything possible to find the two gunmen. “My policy is for them to shoot the suspects if they resist - no more allowing them to flee,” he told radio DZXL.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s spokesman, Cerge Remonde, condemned the shooting and said the president had ordered the national police chief “to leave no stone unturned to ensure justice is done and identify the killers.”
A police “task force” has been created in Cagayan de Oro to carry out the investigation. A suspect has reportedly been identified but so far no arrest has been made. The local press club is meanwhile carrying out its own investigation.