Cebu Citizens-Press Council

Being accountable comes with being free

Incidents of violence and harassment against journalists

In a forum held in line with Cebu Press Freedom Week in September 2006, local media panelists said that except for the murder of print journalist Antonio Abad Tormis in 1961, no other work-related killing of a media practitioner had been recorded in Cebu.

Journalists killed
WORK-RELATED

July 3, 1961
The Republic News editor and columnist Antonio Abad Tormis was shot in his car parked in front of the Masonic Temple building on Borromeo St., Cebu City. The gunman, Cesario Orongan, and the mastermind, Felipe Pareja, Cebu City treasurer at the time of Tormis’s murder, were convicted and imprisoned for the crime. Pareja had been the subject of Tormis’s commentaries on graft.

UNSOLVED

Dec. 28, 1984
Vicente Villordon of dyLA was shot by two gunmen on Dec. 28, 1984 outside his Cebu City radio station, according to The Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial. He was a critic of both government and communism. The motive remains unclear. In a Philippine Star article in 2006, former communist rebel Pastor Alcover Jr. claimed that his former colleagues in the CPP-NPA, like Leo Enriquez and Vic Villordon, were killed by their erstwhile comrades.

June 1, 1985
Nabokodonosor “Nabing” Velez, 47, a commentator for dyLA radio station in Cebu, was attacked by six gunmen on June 1 as he watched his 19-year-old daughter compete in a beauty contest, according to The Journalists Memorial.

Oct. 10, 1987
News reporter Leo Enriquez III was gunned down near his house in Mandaue City, according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. Two weeks before his death, an arson attempt was made on his house by suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

April 14, 1995
Ambrosio Iyas was shot on the terrace at his home in Barangay Sta. Rosa, Lapu-Lapu City. The 63-year-old was a blocktimer on radio dyLA. At the height of the campaign period in the May 1995 elections, he was said to be the campaign manager of incumbent Lapu-Lapu City Vice Mayor Norma Patalinghug, who was contesting the reelection bid of Mayor Ernest Weigel Jr.

May 11, 1995
Lawyer and broadcaster Geronimo “Boy” Creer and his lover were stabbed to death near the corner of Sanciangko and Pelaez Sts., Cebu City in 1995. Creer also once wrote a sports column for The Freeman. Jecknel Inso spent five years in jail as a suspect in the killing. But the charge against him was dismissed after the prosecution failed to present witnesses.

CONVICTIONS MADE
Nov. 27, 2004
Freeman and Banat News photographer Allan Dizon was shot in Cebu City’s North Reclamation Area. Two men on a motorcycle came and stopped 10 meters away from Dizon. The rider walked toward Dizon, holding a gun. Dizon tried to flee, but the latter chased him and fired. On Jan. 19, 2006, despite the prosecution’s failure to present a motive, Regional Trial Court Judge Ireneo Lee Gako Jr. convicted businessman Edgar Belandres, 41, Dizon’s neighbor, of the murder after he was identified by witnesses as the shooter. In March 2010, the Court of Appeals reversed Gako’s decision, making Belandres a free man.

Dec. 1, 2005
Bantay Radyo reporter George Benaojan was shot to death at the South Central Market in Barangay Lawaan 1, Talisay City. On Dec. 5, 2005, former professional boxer Roberto “Dinky” Recla Jagdon was charged with the murder. In October 2007, Jagdon was sentenced by Regional Trial Court Judge Eric Menchavez to eight to 12 years in prison for the lesser crime of homicide. Those close to Benaojan believe Jagdon was just a hired gun and that the mastermind remains free. No motive has been established.

April 12, 2006
Cebu City Bantay Dagat Commission project director and concurrent market administrator Elpidio “Jojo” dela Victoria was shot three times as he was about to enter the gate of his house in San Roque, Talisay City. Dela Victoria also handled programs at dyRF. In September 2006, SPO1 Marcial Ocampo was sentenced to spend 20 to 40 years in jail for the murder. Two alleged accomplices and the mastermind have not been identified. De la Victoria’s vigilance against illegal fishing is among the angles being considered as motive.

Incidents of harassment

Nov. 6, 1987
Former Rangers barge into newsroom
Bearing long firearms, several long-haired ex-Rangers led by Jose Sabandeja and Choy de la Sala barged into the Sun.Star Daily office. They sought out columnist Wilfredo A. Veloso. The former Scout Rangers were hogging the news with their defiance of the law and Veloso had written: “Ex-Rangers need a psychiatrist.” Sabandeja said: “It’s an insult to our persons. You Sun.Star Daily people should do something to counter what Veloso had written.” After reporter Noemi Fetalvero interviewed them, the Scout Rangers left.

Nov. 19, 1990
Boxed, held hostage in Mandaue City
Bobby Nalzaro, then a commentator for radio dyMF, was mauled for a report on the alleged excessive fare in barges plying the Mactan-Mandaue route, in an attempt to suppress legitimate news coverage. He was boxed in the head by a bodyguard of a barge operator, who held him by the collar and whose family also detained him even after Nalzaro promised to air their side on the overcharging issue.

Nov. 6, 1991
Long guns in the newsroom
Narcotics Command (Narcom) 7 Chief Esa Hasan and three of his men armed with high-powered weapons barged into the Sun.Star Daily newsroom and confronted columnist Wilfredo A. Veloso at gunpoint over his critical accounts of Narcom’s anti-drug campaign.

Oct. 18, 1996
Roughed-up by PSG sergeant
During the visit of President Fidel Ramos to Mandaue City, staff sergeant Diosdado Pobre, an alleged member of the Presidential Security Group, struck Sun.Star Cebu photographer Amper Campańa and Mike Alquinto of the Manila-based Today newspaper for taking photos of him grabbing a placard from a rallyist. A warrant for Pobre’s arrest relating to the incident was never served.

May 5, 2003
Evicted under guard out of Cebu City Hall
Without provocation and without leaving instructions with his staff that he wasn’t letting the media in, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeńa ordered Sun.Star Cebu photographer Amper Campańa out of his office. Osmeńa didn’t want Sun.Star, a paper owned by his political rival, to profit from him. Campańa had taken only five steps into the mayor’s office to cover an event when Osmeńa confronted him. “Who gave you the authority to get in? Get out!” Osmeńa told his bodyguards, “Escort him out of the building!” The two guards escorted Campańa to the elevator.

July 9, 2007
Punched, kicked, jeered at in Bogo
Around 20 supporters of Bogo City Mayor Celestino Martinez Jr. punched and kicked Sun.Star Cebu chief photographer Alex Badayos outside the Bogo Municipal Hall after he tried to take photos of those who had snatched a ballot box from Cebu City North District Election Officer Marchel Sarno. The supporters also took his camera and laptop. He suffered injuries in the head, ribs and arms. Reporters covering the incident were also jeered at, shoved and accused of siding with the police.

Incidents not considered harassment by Cebu journalists, but just “part of the job”

July 9, 2003
Fr. Oscar Ornopia’s castigated the Sun.Star Cebu team that sought his reaction to the immorality issues raised against him. A day after he was relieved of parish duties in the wake of allegations that he fathered two sons with two women, Ornopia and his brother were placing bets in a mahjong game at the family compound in Barangay Maslog, Tabogon town, Cebu, when other family members allowed Sun.Star Cebu’s news team to approach the priest for an interview.

Fr. Ornopia cursed reporters Linette C. Ramos, Joseph C. Tubilan and photographer Alex A. Badayos, calling them “panuway (devils),” “buang (fools),” and “peste (pests).” He also said, “Pamusilon ta hinuon mo ron (I could shoot you now)” at least thrice. The wrath of the priest and his brother-mayor was evident from the way they pounded the mahjong table with their fists and threw around chairs.

May 6 and 7, 2005
Reporter Suzanne Salva of Cebu Daily News received text messages warning her to slow down in writing news stories or she would be killed. She suspects one of her sources was behind the death threats.

Sept. 24, 2011
Adrian Alvarińo, former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea) 7 director, harassed radio dyDD and Banat News reporter Rey Pasaporte after Pasaporte wrote a story linking Alvarińo to the alleged payoff that led to the release of a suspected drug lord. In his affidavit, Pasaporte said he called Alvarińo on Sept. 24 to comment on text messages about an alleged payoff in exchange for the release of a suspected drug lord. Alvarińo asked Pasaporte why the latter had maligned him in the newspaper even though he had already been relieved as Pdea 7 director when the operation that led to the arrest of the drug pusher took place. Alvarińo allegedly told him: “Ito na lang. Tandaan mo ‘yan Rey ha, babalikan kita diyan.” Shortly, Pasaporte said, he also received a text message from Alvarino saying, “Pasensyahan na tayo.”

2 Comments

  • Ester Iyas

    It’s so sad that our mediamen,in their way of venturing for the truth,could easily be killed by these trigger-happy assailants..and even if we find the suspects behind these killings,we let them go so easily if we couldnt find evidence..i understand that we do need evidence to file a suit but,these criminals know their craft and before they are arrested,they have dumped them already to God knows where..if only we act upon the laws of the land and make these criminals pay for their crimes,cases stated above would been solved..my father,Ambrosio Iyas, died without us knowing the reason why,and until now (18 years since then),we are still suffering from his loss..i just hope that these killings stop..they only speak and seek for the truth,but they and their families suffer because of this calling..

  • Ester Iyas

    18 years after his death and it is still unsolved..it adds more pain to the injury that these killings caused..