Respected by his peers in Mindanao, Edgar Damalerio juggled several jobs as a radio commentator for dxKP-Pagadian, managing editor of the Zamboanga Scribe, and host of the cable TV program “Enkwentro” (Encounter). He was known for having produced exposés detailing the alleged involvement of local officials, police, and military men, and even fellow journalists in anomalous government transactions and other illegal activities. He even went to the extent of filing cases against officials he said were involved in wrongdoing.
In May 2002, Damalerio was driving his jeep from a press conference when he was shot by two men onboard a motorcycle along Pajares Street in Pagadian City. His two companions – Edgar Amoro and Edgar Ongue – got a good look at the killer, whom they later identified as Guillermo Wapile, a local police officer with a notorious criminal record that included car theft and armed robbery.
Wapile was sighted numerous times, but still, there was no apparent attempt by the police and other law-enforcement bodies to arrest him.
Damalerio’s murder led to the founding of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), a coalition of six media organizations with the purpose of addressing the numerous attacks against journalists and media workers in the Philippines.
In 2003, FFFJ launched “Operation: Countdown Damalerio”, which called on media organizations to help raise public awareness about the case. Many media organizations answered FFFJ’s call. National news organizations based in Metro Manila like the newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer began posting the photo of Wapile daily, while indicating each day how many days had passed since the killing. TV stations like RPN 9 did a similar countdown.
“Presumably and hopefully, the police authorities will be shamed into action by the daily countdown meant to raise the public’s awareness of the issue,” said Jose L. Pavia, executive director of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), a founding member of FFFJ, during the countdown launch held at the Club Filipino in San Juan town.
Wapile was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on November 29, 2005. He is now serving his sentence at the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa, Rizal.
The Damalerio case is one of only ten cases in the killing of journalists that has resulted in a conviction.
More information on the killing of journalists and media workers can be found on the CMFR interactive map (http://www.cmfr-phil.org/journalistkilled)