Parlade questions victim's presence in village
MANILA - The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines on Tuesday strongly condemned the killing of a journalist by alleged soldiers in Masbate province.
Ronnie Villamor, 50, was gunned down in Milagros town last Saturday afternoon in what authorities claimed as an encounter. His colleagues denied that an encounter took place, according to the NUJP.
"He may yet be entered in the list of dead or killed journalists whose families and colleagues would again cry for justice. That he was 'shoot in broad daylight' helpless as revealed by frightful witnesses is so much a thought any sound minded journalist could imagine," NUJP-Masbate said in a statement.
"In this regard, we condemn in the strongest term possible the killing of our colleague and demand a thorough investigation that appropriate justice be delivered!"
A spot report on the incident from Milagros police chief Major Aldrin Rosales said Army troops led by one 2nd Lt. Maydim Jomadil were investigating the presence of five armed men in Brgy. Matanglad.
The five men, including Villamor, fled. The journalist supposedly drew a firearm when he was ordered to stop his motorcycle, but was shot dead.
Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, however, said that up to 40 armed men were reported walking in Matanglad, prompting them to send troops to the village. He said they were able to verify that the armed men were security personnel for surveyors.
But Parlade claimed Villamor was shocked when authorities arrived.
“Hindi kilala ng mga tao si Villamor na sinasabi nilang media. Nandun siya sa barangay tapos bigla siyang sumibat, so hinarang siya ng mga local officials, kasama 'yung Army, kasama 'yung pulis na nandoon, para hintuin siya. Bakit siya dali-dali na umalis nung dumating yung tropa?”
Villamor's colleagues meanwhile said he had gone to Matanglad with four surveyors from Legazpi City at the request of the landowner "to provide media coverage of the activity."
A local journalist told NUJP that parties in land disputes often request media coverage for activities such as surveys, apparently believing journalists' presence will prevent violence.
His colleagues said Villamor and his companions even "coordinated with the local police and informed them of their purpose in going to Matanglad."
They added that the survey did not push through because "they were prevented by a group of soldiers from doing so." Instead, Villamor and his companions decided to phone the local police for assistance.
"It was at that moment that several gunfires were heard" and he was killed, they said.
Villamor is the fourth journalist murdered in Masbate after Joaquin Briones (March 13, 2017), Antonio Castillo (June 12, 2009), and Nelson Nedura (December 2, 2003). He is the 19th media member slain during the Duterte administration and the 191st since 1986.
He was also the second killed this month, only four days after NUJP member Virgilio Maganes, who had survived an attempt on his life in 2016, was shot dead outside his home in Villasis town, Pangasinan. - with a report from Wheng Hidalgo, ABS-CBN News