Outspoken Radio Commentator Shot Dead in Philippines

2021-07-22
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Outspoken Radio Commentator Shot Dead in Philippines Members of a left-leaning organization protest the killing of journalists, in Manila, Dec. 19, 2019.
[Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews]

A gunman shot dead a radio commentator in the central Philippines after he signed off from the air and exited the broadcast station on Thursday, colleagues and officials said.

The Philippines, where the gun culture is widespread, ranks regularly among the world’s deadliest countries for journalists and media workers. Thursday’s killing brought to at least four the number of media personnel slain in separate incidents in the country since 2020.

The victim in Thursday’s shooting, Reynante Cortes, had come out of the dyRB radio station in Mambaling, a village in Cebu city, when a gunman approached and shot him at close range around 9 a.m., said David Tumulak, a local councilman.

“He was still conscious when he was transported to the hospital. I even urged him to not close his eyes,” Tumulak, who has his own radio program on dyRB, told reporters.

Cortes was wounded in his arms and chest and rushed to a nearby hospital where he was proclaimed dead upon arrival.

Maj. Dindo Alaras, the police chief in Mambaling, confirmed the shooting, but said it was too early to establish a motive.

Police were looking into Cortes’ “work as a commentator” as one of the possible motives for the attack, Alaras said.

Cortes was an outspoken commentator who discussed local issues on his show “Engkwento” (Encounter), and what he said may have angered some people, police said.

Cortes was the 22nd media worker to be slain in the Philippines since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016.

Duterte, who is known for his combative style and use of profanity, once said that journalists “are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch.”

Cortes was the 193rd practicing media worker killed since dictator Ferdinand Marcos was toppled in 1986, said Lorraine Ecarma, the Cebu chapter head of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

Ecarma condemned the killing, saying media personnel are targeted for merely fulfilling their duties as watchdogs of society.

“Attacks against journalists and media workers continue to rise and are being normalized,” Ecarma said.

“We further condemn the culture of impunity that emboldens these perpetrators to commit these crimes.”

The Cebu Citizens-Press Council urged the police to investigate the incident, saying the killing was a “heinous and sensational crime.”

“Whether he was a regular staff member or block-timer of dyRB does not change this fact – he was a media practitioner whose killers should be arrested and prosecuted,” Pachico Seares, the council’s executive director, said in a statement.

Block-timers are usually not employees of the radio station. They make money by selling advertising spots during their broadcasts.

Seares said the local community of journalists and media workers would be monitoring developments in the case.

“If a media worker’s life could be easily snuffed out, violence could replace democracy’s regular means of discourse,” Seares said.

“The Cortes murder appears to be work-related, but even if it were not, it was still a disruption of Cebu’s peace and order [and] a desecration of community values should it go unpunished.”

Richel V. Umel contributed to this report from Iligan City, southern Philippines. 

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