Nesino “Nonie” Toling was a crusading journalist who, according to Bob Drogin in a 1991 report in the Philippine Journalism Review (PJR), “used his scrappy six-page weekly in western Mindanao to crusade against graft, corruption and human rights abuses by local military, government, and business leaders. Few [escaped] his ire.” The publisher and editor for the Panguil Bay Monitor (PBM), Toling was writing about and denouncing the illegal business practices, illegal logging, and extortion by an alleged cult leader when he began receiving death threats.
On April 14, 1991, Toling was shot in his office by a lone gunman. A murder case was subsequently filed against Gerry Sarabia and NelsonVerdida. On March 25, 1992, Sarabia was sentenced to 17-20 years imprisonment; he is serving that sentence at the San Ramon Penal Colony in Zamboanga City, while Verdida remains at large. Justice, however, still eludes the Toling family who believes that Sarabia was a mere fall guy.
According to former PBM editor Merpu Roa, “Nonie came at a time when journalistic ethics is hardly an issue and the newspaper medium was then new in the locality. Everybody sees him as a brave fighter for people’s rights”.
Toling’s death highlighted the climate of fear that journalists in provincial regions work in. Two decades after his murder, that same climate of fear persists. Despite this, Toling’s wife continues to publish the PBM.
More information on the killing of journalists and media workers can be found on the CMFR interactive map (http://www.cmfr-phil.org/journalistkilled).
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