Broadcaster killed in Surigao del Sur

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – A broadcaster in Surigao del Sur was killed last 27 July 2009, when president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo delivered her ninth State of the Nation address.

Surigao del Sur is a province in Mindanao approximately 877 kms from Manila.

A gunman approached and shot broadcaster Godofredo Linao Jr. four times along the provincial road in Purok 1, Barobo town at around 1: 15 a.m. (local time) last 27 July, according to Surigao del Sur Provincial Police Director Col. Richard De la Rosa. The gunman was allegedly accompanied by another man who was waiting on a motorcycle approximately 20 meters from where the incident happened.

Linao hosted the blocktime public affairs program “Straight to the Point” with Romy Santiago over Radyo Natin (Our Radio) in Bislig city every Friday. According to Radyo Natin station manager Mario Alviso, the program was sponsored by Vice Governor Librado Navarro of Surigao del Sur, for whom Linao worked as a spokesperson.

Linao also occasionally anchored a program over the radio station 94.5 Magic Love FM in Barobo town which discussed the structure and works of the organization Kapamilya Walang Iwanan Association, of which he was a member. Linao, according to his wife, had been in the broadcasting business for eight years.

The local police said Linao had apparently just parked across the road and was on his way to a local restaurant when he was shot. De la Rosa said Linao’s motorcycle was on still its stand when police found it.

Linao had allegedly received a message on his mobile phone inviting him to go to the restaurant. Alviso told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) that Linao was in Bagobo to celebrate the town fiesta. According to Alviso, Linao’s friends who were with him that night said he read the message and said he would go to the restaurant. It is still unclear who sent the message.

According to Linao’s widow Virginia, he left their home in Bislig city (approximately 50 kms from Barobo town) on Saturday, 25 July 2009 and was to spend his weekend in Barobo. “He told me he would come back on Monday (27 July 2009),” Virginia said.

Virginia and Alviso both said Linao had not told them of any recent threat. “We don’t (usually) receive threats, we are just targeted right away,” Alviso was quoted as saying in several reports.

Virginia said her family believes the killing could be “70 percent related to politics” and “30 percent related to his broadcasting.” Linao would have run as a candidate for provincial board member in Surigao del Sur this coming 2010 elections.

Virginia also told CMFR that Linao received threats every time he ran for a government post. Linao had served as a purok president for two terms, district president for two terms, and village councilor for five years. His last electoral bid was in 2007 when he ran for provincial board member, but lost.

Meanwhile, Alviso thinks there is a possibility that Linao’s killing is related to his blocktime program on Radyo Natin. Linao discussed corruption in the local government. His latest commentary criticized the purchasing of 10 vans by the city government amid the economic crisis and lay-offs in the province. “It cannot be helped if he had stepped on someone’s toes…. Maybe he didn’t expect that it will happen,” Alviso said in Filipino.

Alviso also told CMFR that he received a text message on 28 July 2009 saying that the death of Linao was just a sample of what s/he can do and he (Alviso) would be next. Alviso said it came hours after he discussed on air some inconsistencies in the investigation on the killing of Linao. CMFR tried calling the mobile number (+639089869061) used, but no one answered the call.

Police said they are still looking into the possible motives behind the killing.

Linao is the sixth journalist/media practitioner killed in the Philippines in 2009. Five out of those killed worked for radio. Before Linao, a volunteer broadcaster had been killed in Agusan del Sur, a province in the same region as Surigao del Sur.

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