Task Force Velarde created to probe killing of tabloid circulation manager

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MIndaNews/12 Nov) — Police authorities in Southwestern Mindanao (Region 12) have created a special task force to investigate the killing on Friday of an executive of a local daily tabloid here.

Chief Supt. Benjardi Mantele, Region 12 police director, said they have created the Task Group Velarde as part of its “immediate actions” in connection with the murder of Brigada News circulation manager Alfredo Velarde Jr.

Velarde, 42, was gunned down by still unidentified suspects in front of the Brigada News complex along Mahogany Street, Rosario village in Barangay San Insidro at around 3:35 a.m. Friday, a police report said.

It said the victim was about to park his Mitsubishi Strada Triton in front of the Brigada News building when two motorcycle-riding suspects approached the vehicle and fired several shots, hitting the latter on the head and several parts of his body.

In a statement, Mantele said he has designated Senior Supt. Cedric Train, city police director, to lead and act as spokesperson of the task force.

Mantele said task force operatives led by Supt. Rolly Octavio, deputy city police director for operations, and San Isidro police station chief Senior Insp. Lorenzo Hinarez III are currently conducting follow-up operations on the matter.

“We’ve taken some immediate actions and our priority right now is the identification of the motive and arrest of the suspects,” Mantele said.

Police investigators initially said the the killing was caught by the company’s close circuit television camera (CCTV). The task force is currently digging up various angles as motive of the killing, among them the possible links to Velarde’s job as an executive of Brigada News, and reviewing the CCTV recording to determine if the gunman can be identified.

Ernie Gabonada, station manager of the paper’s DXYM Brigada News FM, earlier said the murder of Velarde “may be due to complex reasons.”

Velarde was reportedly facing a frustrated murder case, was at odds with a newspaper dealer, and was reportedly involved in a mauling incident that was not recorded in the police blotter, Gabonada said.

Police noted that the victim was with a 24-year old female guest relation officer of a nightclub in the city.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines General Santos-Koronadal Chapter urged the police “to conduct a speedy and impartial investigation to get to the bottom behind the slaying and to immediately apprehend the perpetrators.”

“We denounce in no uncertain terms the treacherous slaying of Velarde,” the group said in a statement.

“We demand an immediate closure to this killing and the cases of other members of the press who were killed in the line of duty in the city and throughout the country. Failure of the police authorities to solve Velarde’s killing and the rest of our fallen colleagues before him will only embolden the enemies of press freedom,” it added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)