GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/07 January) – Media organizations here took exception to a statement by a police official that personal motive was possibly behind the murder of a publisher of a local paper on Thursday, saying the issue is not the motive but the growing number of unsolved extrajudicial killings.
Chief Supt. Benjardi Mantele, Region-12 police director, earlier said that personal motive could be behind the killing of Christopher Guarin, publisher-editor of Tatak News.
In a dialogue with Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio and Mantele, journalists here demanded the immediate arrest and prosecution of Guarin’s killers.
Among those who attended the dialogue were members of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines chapter in the city, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, Tri-Media Association of General Santos, Publishers Association of General Santos City and the Socsksargen Press Corps.
In their statement read by NUJP chapter president Edwin Espejo, the media organizations said they were “saddened by the growing reputation of General Santos City as the most dangerous place for journalist(s) in the country today with over 20 members of the press already killed since 1986, including 14 who perished in the Ampatuan massacre.”
“We do not want to believe there is an ongoing campaign to eliminate us from our profession but until these heinous crimes are solved, we cannot help but be outraged,” the group further said.
Custodio urged the city’s police forces to immediately arrest and prosecute Guarin’s killers.
Mantele earlier said personal motive may be behind Guarin’s killing even as he assured there was no organized campaign to eliminate members of the local press.
In the dialogue, however, the NUJP said it is not all about motives but the fact that journalists are being gunned down and becoming part of the growing statistics of extra judicial killings should alarm and appall the people.
“We do not want to leave an impression that we journalists are a special lot. But if we are becoming part of the statistics of unsolved extrajudicial killings then who can the people turn to?” Espejo wondered aloud during the two-hour dialogue with local authorities at the city mayor’s conference room Friday afternoon.
Mantele later asked the media here to provide information that may help solve Guarin’s assassination.
Custodio said the city government will set up reward money for information that will lead to the arrest of the gunman and the mastermind behind the killing of the 41-year old Guarin, who was also former reporter of Bombo Radyo Gensan and later station manager of the defunct RGMA Super Radyo here.
Custodio declined to reveal the amount of reward money but said it will depend on the recommendation of the police authorities.
On Thursday evening (Jan 5), Guarin was gunned down by a still unidentified gunman while on his way home with his wife and daughter after his blocktime program in RMN’s dxMD station here.
Guarin’s killing came barely two months after the circulation manager of rival local tabloid was also gunned down by a motorcycle riding gunman.
Alfredo Velarde was about to collect the day’s edition of Brigada News for distribution when the gunman sneaked from behind his car and shot him several times.
He died on the spot.
After Velarde was gunned down, Guarin was reportedly invited by police for questioning.
His wife however said the victim was cleared of any involvement in the Velarde killing.
Freddie Solinap, managing editor of Tatak News, said business competition could be a motive behind his employer’s killing.
“I suspect this has something to do with his business as newspaper publisher and editor,” Solinap said.
Guarin had just fetched his wife and daughter at the Tatak News office and was on his way home when the crime happened.
He used to be a hard-hitting commentator when he was still manager and anchorman of RGMA Super Radyo.
At the time of his death, Guarin was promoting health supplements in his block time program.
Meanwhile, barely 24 hours after Guarin’s shooting, killers struck again.
This time gunmen riding in tandem mowed down a city traffic enforcer in a busy intersection along J. Catolico Street.
Killed was Oliver Dayap who succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds while directing traffic along the busy street minutes before 7 p.m. Friday. (MindaNews)