Philippine police arrest suspected gunman in on-air killing of broadcaster

BenarNews staff
Philippine police arrest suspected gunman in on-air killing of broadcaster College students participate in a protest to defend press freedom in Manila on January 17, 2018.

UPDATED at 10:29 a.m. ET on 04-30-2024

Police in the Philippines in recent weeks have arrested three men suspected in the killing of community radio broadcaster Juan Jumalon, who was gunned down while broadcasting live on Facebook. 

The fatal shooting last November, which was captured on his program’s video feed, was the fourth deadly attack on a journalist since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office in mid-2022. The Philippines ranks among the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists.

Police arrested the alleged gunman, Jolieto Mangumpit, in the southern city of Dipolog in Zamboanga del Norte province on Monday, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security said Tuesday in a statement. 

Mangumpit is alleged to have entered the home studio of Jumalon – better known as “Johnny Walker” to his fans – and shot him twice in the head as he aired a program on Facebook Live in November last year, according to police. 

His two alleged accomplices, cousins Boboy Sagaray Bongcawel and Renante Saja Bongkawel, were arrested on March 15, the task force said. Renante was allegedly the driver of the getaway motorcycle, while Boboy was allegedly the backup gunman. Authorities had filed murder and theft charges against the three suspects late last year, Manila's Presidential Task Force on Media Security said last Jan. 8.

“This case is as good as completely solved,” said Paul Gutierrez, the agency’s executive director. 

Jumalon’s widow, Jerrebel Jumalon, earlier told police that the motive for the attack could have been a personal grudge. But the broadcaster had also won a bitter land dispute in court before the attack.

Juan Jumalon (also known as “Johnny Walker”) is shown in a photo published on his social media page. [Johnny Walker/Facebook]

Mangumpit was one of the province’s most wanted criminals and had eight separate outstanding warrants for murder and narcotics offenses, Zamboanga del Norte police chief Col. Dwight Monato said.

“Finally, the quest for justice for the family of Jumalon will be served with the arrest of Mangumpit. All three suspects directly involved in the killing of Jumalon are now in the hands of the law,” Monato said in a statement.

“We are optimistic that, given the weight of evidence against them, they will be convicted by the court.”

Jumalon, who owned Gold FM Calamba 94.7 radio station in Misamis Occidental, was part of a growing trend of community radio stations in the Philippines.

His killing drew high-profile condemnations and put the spotlight back on the pervasive lack of safety facing the country’s journalistic community. 

The Southeast Asian nation ranks as the eighth most dangerous country for journalists on the Global Impunity Index 2023, prepared by the Committee to Protect Journalists, alongside nations such as Somalia, Syria and Haiti.

While there has been progress in some high-profile cases of journalist killings in the Philippines, the masterminds in most of them are rarely arrested and imprisoned.

According to the Manila-based press freedom watchdog Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, only 29% of work-related killings of media practitioners have resulted in convictions

Earlier this month, in a speech to the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Marcos vowed to protect press independence because the national interest “is better served by a press that is critical rather than a press that is cooperative.”

The press “must have the untrammeled freedom to do its work, not just to arm the citizenry with the truth, but also to deepen discernment in this age of mass disinformation,” he said.

Richel V. Umel and Froilan Gallardo reported from Cagayan de Oro city, southern Philippines

This story was updated to include the data on journalist killings in the Philippines from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.


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