Leonides Alcantara, a suspect in the killing of radio presenter Apolinario "Polly" Podeba, surrendered to the authorities in the city of Bansud, in Mindoro province (southeast of Manilla), on 22 November. According to police superintendent Ricardo Padilla, who is in charge of the murder investigation, he is one of the two gunmen who shot Podeba on 17 May 2003.
When turning himself in to Bansud mayor Ferdinand Soller, Alcantara said a policeman tried to kill him five days earlier and he therefore needed protection.
Two suspects arrested in the killing of journalist Apolinario Podeba
Two arrested suspects reportedly linked to mayor’s son
Police in Lucena (southeast of Manila) have arrested two suspects in the 17
May killing of radio journalist Apolinario "Polly" Podeba and said they
admitted working as bodyguards for Romano Talaga, son of Ramon Talaga, the
town’s mayor who has been mentioned in connnection with the case. Eulogio
"Eloy" Patulay and his brother Eric (who denied killing Podeba) were
arrested on 22 May after being named as suspects by Quezon police chief
Ricardo Padilla. Both men have been accused of other killings in the past
but never convicted.
Second journalist killed in less than two months
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today voiced concern about the murder on 17 May of radio commentator Apolinario "Polly" Podeba, the second journalist killed in less than two months, and urged the government to do more to protect journalists. Podeba’s murder is thought to have been the result of his accusations linking municipal authorities to the spread of drugs and gambling in the town of Lucena.
"The impunity enjoyed by those who murder journalists, especially in the case of Edgar Damalerio, encourages hit men and those who hire them to murder more journalists," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "The government is partly to blame for this wave violence, which makes the Philippines one of the most dangerous countries for the press," he said.
The organisation called on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to do everything possible to ensure that those responsible for Podeba’s death are identified and punished. It also called on the government to consider taking special measures to protect threatened journalists, as the authorities in Colombia have done.
Podeba was gunned down on the way to the studios of radio dwTI-AM near Lucena, southeast of Manila, on the morning of 17 May 2003 by two men on a motorcycle, who fired seven shots at close range, hitting him in the face, head, neck, back and hands. One of the two killers even got off the motorcycle to fire more shots at him as he lay on the ground. He was taken to Quezon hospital where a forensic doctor declared him dead on arrival.
A former communist guerrilla, Podeba was known for criticising both national and municipal authorities. For the past two years, he and two colleagues had presented a programme called "Nosi ba Lasi" (Who are they?) in which they blamed the mayor of Lucena, Ramon Talaga, for the spread of drugs and gambling in the town. The mayor reacted by closing down the radio station in 2002, forcing it to move outside the city limits.
Joselito "Tito" Ojeda, the chairman of ConAmor Broadcasting, which owns dwTI-AM, said the mayor could be implicated in the murder. The mayor, for his part, blamed the murder on his political rivals who, he said, were trying to harm him by portraying him as the leading suspect. No group has claimed responsibility for the killing.
Lucena police chief Danilo Siongco has been put in charge of the investigation. Two witnesses are reportedly being held in police custody. Podeba’s widow Rowena said her husband had received telephone threats in the past few weeks. She also said she thought a hit man was hired to kill him.
The other journalist killed in the past seven weeks was John Villanueva, killed in April in Legapzi, in the centre of the country. Radio commentator Efren Rafanan was wounded on 31 March in Vigan in the north of the Philippines.