MANILA – There seems to be no end to media killings in the Philippines as another journalist was gunned down in broad daylight last Thursday by three motorcycle-riding gunmen.
Cosme Diez Maestrado, 48, anchor of radio station DXOC was shot in the presence of a bodyguard and cameraman, and in full view of people outside a mall in Southern Phillippines’ Ozamiz City, police said.
Part of Radio Mindanao Network, the Philippines’ largest radio network, Maestrado’s popular radio-TV program called “Mr. Ratchada” (or “Mr. Hard-Hitter”) was highly critical of public and governmental irregularities.
The victim was conversing with the owner of the mall when the gunmen drew their guns and shot Maestrado at close range at about 10 a.m. in front of the Quality Shopping Center in downtown Ozamis City some 750 kilometers south of Manila.
The suspects also pointed their guns at Maestrado’s bodyguard and cameraman, who were caught by surprise.
Maestrado sustained 10 gunshot wounds and was rushed to the Medina Hospital but was declared dead half an hour later.
Police have launched a massive manhunt for the two suspects. Not far from the crime scene, police recovered the two abandoned motorcycles used by the gunmen who fled on foot.
Maestrado had previously asked for police protection after receiving death threats from unknown persons, and the Ozamiz City police were still assessing Maestrado’s application before death overtook him.
According to the victim’s brother Vicente, Maestrado criticized a local politician over the purchase of construction equipment on his radio show before the killing.
A Nov. 9, 2013 police record shows that Maestrado survived a previous ambush by still unidentified gunmen who apparently tried to silence him and his radio program . Despite the attempt, the fearless broadcaster continued his hard-hitting program until he was killed Thursday.
Maestrado is the third broadcaster killed in the Philippines this month and the 30th Filipino journalist killed since 2010.
On Aug. 18, Gregorio “Loloy” Ybañez, publisher of the local newspaper Kabuhayan News Services and president of the Davao del Norte Press and Radio-TV Club (DNPRTC), was gunned down in cold blood while he was about to enter his house in Tagum City, Davao del Norte in the southern Philippines.
Just two days later on Aug. 20, radio journalist Teodoro Escanilla was shot dead by two gunmen inside his residential compound in the presence of his horrified wife in Sorsogon.
Due to a worsening track record of media killings, the Philippines has been tagged one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.
At writing, on Aug. 28, unidentified gunmen sprayed bullets at a coffee shop owned by radio-TV commentator Anthony Taberna along Visayas Avenue in suburban Quezon City, Metro Manila. No one was hurt, police said. An investigation is in progress.
Taberna is co-host of the program “Dos-Por Dos” (2 x 2 baton) of radio dzMM and television station Channel 2.
Meanwhile, Joel Egco, president of the National Press Club of the Philippines, condemned the spate of media killings in the country in a phone interview with The Media Project.
“This is too much,” Egco said as he called on the government to exert more effort to stop these senseless killings of journalists.
The Presidential Palace also condemned the killing of Maestrado.
“We strongly condemn the killing of Mr. Cosme Maestrado… The local PNP [Philippine National Police] has also been directed to identify and arrest those responsible for the killing of Mr. Maestrado,” Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said in a text message.