Suspect arrested in journalist’s murder
Police in Santa Cruz arrested Senando Palumbarit on 25 August in connection with the killing of journalist Noel Villarante. He was presented to the media the next day. The Philippine Daily Inquirer said Villarante’s wife picked him out on 27 August as the hired killer. Palumlbarit said he was innocent.
Radio journalist murdered
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today expressed "great concern" about continued killings of journalists in the Philippines after two gunmen shot dead radio journalist Noel Villarante on 19 August, presumably for denouncing corruption and illegal gambling.
"The impunity enjoyed by killers of journalists, especially in the case of Edgar Damalerio, encourages hitmen and those who hire them to eliminate critical media workers," it said. Reporters Without Borders called on interior and local government secretary José D. Lina to see that police arrested and punished Villarante’s killers and urged the authorities to introduce a scheme to protect threatened journalists, as has been done by the Colombian government.
Villarante, of the local radio station DZJV, was shot dead in Santa Cruz (in Laguna province, 70 kms southeast of Manila). One gunman opened fire on him outside his home. Villarante managed to flee inside. When family members tried to take him to hospital, the other gunman began shooting to prevent them and then killed the journalist at point-blank range and continued firing at him as he lay on the ground wounded.
Villarante, 32, who also wrote for the local paper Laguna Score, had often criticised regional authorities for corruption. His wife Jocelyn told radio station DZRH he had also denounced illegal gambling. A few days before he was killed, she overheard him telling at least two members of the regional council (Rolando Bagnes and Susano Tapia) on the phone that "it’s nothing personal, it’s just work."
Villarante is the 40th journalist to be killed on the job in the Philippines since 1986 and the fourth this year, after John Villanueva, of the radio station dzGB-AM (28 April), Apolinario "Polly" Podeba, of radio station dwTI-AM (17 May) and Bonifacio Gregorio, of the local weekly Dyaryo Banat (8 July).