Tabloid Columnist Gunned Down in Sultan Kudarat
CMFR/PHILIPPINES — Two men riding a motorcycle shot dead a columnist in the municipality of President Quirino in Sultan Kudarat province on 7 August 2017. The killing happened while Mindanao is under martial law. Sultan Kudarat is 1703 kilometers south of Manila.
The victim, Leo Diaz, wrote a column for Sapol News Bulletin, a weekly tabloid, published in General Santos City and distributed in SOCCSKSARGEN, ARMM and Davao regions. Diaz also worked as a volunteer reporter for dxMY RMN-Cotabato.
Diaz was riding a motorcycle with his son and nephew on their way to Tacurong City when the assailants blocked their vehicle and shot Diaz several times, killing him on the spot.
Diaz’s “Ang Inyong Lingkod” (At Your Service) was a hard-hitting column, Sapol publisher John Paul Jubelag told CMFR in a telephone interview. He wrote mostly about corruption in the province and had received several death threats prior to his killing. Jubelag recalled that Diaz’s last column printed on August 7 discussed corruption allegations about a former Bureau of Customs official who is currently serving a government post in Sultan Kudarat.
The columnist was the third journalist from Sapol to be killed since 1986. The other two were news correspondent Chito Abuzo in 2010 (non-work) and photojournalist Mario Sy in 2013. Both were killed in General Santos City.
As a volunteer reporter for dxMY for three years, Diaz delivered spot reports and daily headlines in the station’s morning public affairs program, according to OIC Station Manager Erwin Cabilbigan.
At press time, President Quirino police already formed a task force to investigate the case. The police said they still had no leads to help identify assailants.
If proven work-related, Diaz will be the 155th journalist killed in the line of duty. His case will be the second work-related killing in Sultan Kudarat (see Marlene Esperat); 14th in the SOCCSKSARGEN region.