The circulation manager of a newspaper in General Santos City was shot dead by a motorcycle-riding gunman outside his office on 11 November 2011. General Santos City is part of South Cotabato, a province approximately 1049 kilometers south of Manila.
An unidentified gunman shot Alfredo “Dodong” Velarde Jr. in front of the compound of the local newspaper Brigada News at around 3:45 a.m. (local time). In a repeat of a common pattern in the killing of journalists and political activists, the gunman fled on a motorcycle driven by another unidentified man. Velarde was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.
According to media reports, Velarde and his companion – who escaped unharmed – were waiting for the guard to open the gates of the newspaper’s compound when the incident happened.
Inquirer.net reported that the closed-circuit television camera installed at the gates of the compound recorded the arrival of Velarde’s car but the place where he parked his vehicle was not visible to the camera. The security camera also recorded the arrival of the two motorcyle-riding suspects, but failed to record where they stopped and the attack itself.
A police officer who refused to be identified told Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) that the police have yet to identify the gunman despite the compound’s close circuit television camera because the gunman’s face was covered.
Ernie Gabonada, station manager of Brigada FM station, the radio station of Brigada News, told CMFR that Velarde had a dispute with local tabloid dealers. He also said that the victim had been sued by two teenagers for frustrated murder. Gabonada also said he did not know who was behind the killing.
Meanwhile, lawyer Froebel Kan Balleque, spokesperson and counsel of Brigada News, told CMFR that the killing of Velarde might have been work-related because “there’s rivalry or competition inside the company.”
Balleque also said that Benjardi Mantele, acting regional director of Philippines National Police (PNP) Region 12, has formed a special task force to investigate the killing.
If his killing was work-related, Velarde will be the sixth journalist and media worker killed in the line of duty in 2011. One hundred and twenty-three journalists and media workers have been killed in work-related cases in the Philippines since 1986. Of these, only ten have been successfully prosecuted and brought to justice.
The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) in conjunction with CMFR is part of a global campaign to stop the killing of journalists and ensure that justice is done. November 23, the anniversary of the 2009 Ampatuan massacre, in which 32 media workers were killed, has been designated the International Day to End Impunity. To learn more about impunity and help create a safe environment for journalists, visit our impunity campaign.
CMFR (http://www.cmfr-phil.org) is a SEAPA founding member based in Manila, the Philippines, working to promote ethical journalism and to protect press freedom.