Crisis: National

Two journalists slain in Kidapawan
Two peace advocates, also working as part-time journalists, were gunned down by unidentified men late afternoon of June 19 in Kidapawan City.

George Vigo, a contributor of the Union of Catholic Asian News, and his wife, Maricel Alave-Vigo, host of dxND Radio for Peace and executive director of the non-government Peoples’ Kauyahan Foundation Inc. (PKFI), were shot dead in Sandawa district in front of the house of a provincial board member, according to a report by GMANews.Tv.

The Vigos, both former journalists and co-founders of the Federation of Reporters for Empowerment and Equality (FREE), were part-time media practitioners, a report by Mindanews.com said.

George hosted Tingog sa Kabatan-unan (Voice of the Youth), a block-time program aired over dxND-AM of the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corp. every Monday noon, while Maricel took the reigns of Kalihukan sa Kongreso (Congress Affairs), a Sunday noon block-time program in the same radio station. The program is owned by Rep. Lala Taliño-Santos, of North Cotobato’s first district.

Both George and Maricel did not tackle news, topics, or commentaries that could have irked concerned parties or persons, according to Malou Manar, dxND’s program director.

Manar said the killing could have stemmed from the couple’s active participation in human rights activities and programs in the early 1990s. The Vigos, though, have ceased their connections with progressive groups since 1996, Manar added.

Since 2000, the couple had been working for PKFI, an organization that facilitates peace forums and dialogues in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

The PKFI, supported by the United Nations Program for Internally Displaced Persons, has been implementing the Integrated Rehabilitation Project for displaced families in several villages in the said provinces.

George also worked as the project officer of the Mindanao youth leadership program of the Community and Family Services International, a Cotabato City-based nongovernmental organization dealing with the rehabilitation of internally displaced persons, according to colleague Manar. Manar said she has been receiving threats herself, allegedly from the local military.

Maricel was also a part-time media relations officer of Rep. Taliño-Santos, and since early this year, was area coordinator of an NGO delivering solar resource services to villagers in remote areas.

Recently, however, South-Central Mindanao police chief German Doria identified alleged New People’s Army (NPA) hitman Dionisio Madanguit as one of the three suspects in the murder of the Vigo couple.

Doria said the couple were killed by the communist party’s NPA for informing the military of the whereabouts of one of the group’s leaders, a certain Commander Benjie in 2004.

The NPA, however, through Front 51 spokesman Magtanggol Roque, denied killing the couple, saying the rebel group had no reason to impose “revolutionary justice” on the Vigo couple. Instead, it tagged the military’s “death squad” as responsible for the killing.

Two months ago, on May 16, a package was addressed to radio station dxND-AM from a certain Henry Laot of Matina, Davao, which contained a makeshift poster with the message, “Kamatayon sa nagsuporta sa CPP/NPA/NDF. Aralsa ang masa!” (“Death to the supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front. Masses, revolt!”) written in red paint.—With reports from Mindanews.com

Mayor suspected of publisher’s slay surrenders
Hours before being issued a warrant of arrest, the mayor suspected of masterminding the murder of a publisher sur-rendered before a local court in Aurora on May 22.

Jaime Ylarde, mayor of Dingalan town, was implicated in last year’s killing of Starline Times Recorder publisher Philip Agustin.

The mayor said he surrendered to clear his name and prove his innocence.

Ylarde spent the first night of detention at the provincial jail’s conjugal visiting room, but was later transferred to a six-square-meter cell room, which he shares with six other inmates.

A three-man prosecution panel included Ylarde as “co-conspirator” in Agustin’s murder in a resolution issued May 2 this year.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez created the panel of prosecutors after the first prosecutor overlooked a certain key evidence implicating Ylarde and excluded him from the murder charges.

Agustin, who was gunned down May 10 last year, had criticized the mayor’s alleged involvement in irregularities and alleged misuse of funds intended for typhoon victims in 2004.

Meanwhile, Agustin’s daughter Rosebelle Cruz asked the Supreme Court to transfer the venue of the murder trial to another court, preferably in Metro Manila.

Cruz, through her lawyer Michael J. Mella, said she cannot expect to obtain justice considering the “far-reaching power and influence of Mayor Ylarde.”

Dingalan town councilor Valentino Lapuz said fear prevented witnesses from appearing at the trial as they were allegedly receiving threats.

German businessman sues tabloid
A German businessman filed a P100-million libel suit against a daily tabloid and two of its informants for allegedly portraying him as a pedophile.

Michael Heinen, 62, filed the charges against a writer, two editors, and the publisher of the Manila-based tabloid Remate for allegedly ruining his reputation through a news story published on May 2.

According to Heinen, Remate’s story was based on accounts by Ben Lorque, an engineer, and Mark Barican, president of the Advocate for the Protection and Welfare of Children.

The tabloid had quoted Barican saying that Heinen pretended to be a captain in the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA) to lure his adolescent victims.

It then cited Lorque’s claim that the German had been charged with the rape of minors back in 1997. Lorque was also quoted saying that Heinen has a standing arrest warrant in a court in Manila.

Heinen, who has been residing in the Philippines since 1996, denied all charges.

He attributed his membership in the PCGA to his work with the Philippine Merchant Rules and Regulations in 1997. He also denied ever being charged with rape and pedophilia.

Heinen claimed that Lorque, his former employee, is only trying to get back at him over a wage dispute they had years ago.

2 jail officers, 3 others charged in Orsolino slay
Five persons, including two jail officers, were charged with murder recently for the May 16 killing of photojournalist Albert Orsolino in Caloocan City.

Police identified the suspects as JO2 Ramon Rivera, JO1 Reynaldo Nicolas, Rommel Lizaran, Franklin Sabe, and Rolando Manang.

“The five suspects were all positively identified by several witnesses through photographs gathered by police inves-tigators,” Northern Police District chief Leopoldo Bataoil said.

Bataoil said the suspects are now being hunted by police.

According to a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Senior State Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco said the complaint showed that the killing might not have been related to Orsolino’s job as a journalist.

“Police investigation showed that this may be a vendetta killing,” Velasco said.

The victim worked for the daily tabloid Saksi and covered Malacañang.

The complaint, filed in the Department of Justice, tagged Lizaran as the gunman, and Sabe and Manang as lookouts. Rivera and Nicolas were also reported to have taken part in the plot to kill Orsolino, who was also a barangay councilman in Caloocan.– based on reports from Inquirer News Service

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