Suspect in killing of radio announcer in Zamboanga del Norte charged

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – A murder complaint against the alleged killer of radio blocktimer Ismael Pasigna has been filed before a court in Labason town, Zamboanga del Norte.

Labason, Zamboanga del Norte is approximately 745 kilometers from Manila.

Labason town mayor Wilfredo Balais told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility on 19 January that the case against the alleged hired gunman who killed Pasigna was filed last 18 January 2010. Balais refused to release the name of the suspect.

A gunman on a motorcycle shot Pasigna on his way to work in Labason last 24 December 2009 at around 6:55 a.m. (local time). The incident happened around 30 to 40 kilometers from the house of the town mayor where Pasigna had come from. Balais said Pasigna usually passed by his house before going to the radio station.

Pasigna died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Pasigna was one of the anchors of the government-funded blocktime program “South Express Balita” aired over B-96 FM every 7 a.m. (local time). He started working as a radio announcer in August 2009. Neneng, widow of Pasigna, and Balais said the program focused on the progress of local government projects and was not critical. “He was just speaking the truth,” Neneng told CMFR last 19 January 2010.

In a 13 January 2010 interview, Police Inspector Chamber Lacay said police investigation suggests that the incident was election-related.

Balais also believes the incident was politically-motivated. He allegedly received an anonymous text message after the killing of Pasigna saying that he would be the next victim. Both Pasigna and Balais are members of the Alliance Party for Progress, a local political party in Zamboanga del Norte.

Neneng in a separate interview however said that there is a possibility that the killing could be related to her husband’s radio work. ¬†Neneng said that Pasigna had aired over radio a controversy regarding the filing of a certificate of candidacy by a political party in Zamboanga del Norte.

The killing of Pasigna followed a month after the most violent work-related killing of journalists in Philippine history. More than 30 journalists and media workers covering the filing of a local candidate’s certificate of candidacy were killed in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province. The perpetrators were allegedly led by Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., the supposed rival of vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu in the province’s gubernatorial elections this year.

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