Radio presenter assassinated in the Philippines

Cosme Diez Maestrado is the third journalist to be killed in the country in less than a month

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The Independent Online

Cosme Diez Maestrado, an anti-corruption radio presenter in the Philippines, became the third Filipino journalist to be assassinated in less than a month when four gunmen on motorcycles ambushed him outside a shopping centre in Ozamiz City.

The attack, which took place in broad daylight in front of hundreds of witnesses, highlights the impunity enjoyed by killers in what is now the third most dangerous country in the world for journalists after Iraq Syria.

Maestrado was chatting outside the shopping centre when the unidentified gunmen shot him 10 times on 27 August. Doctors at Medina Hospital declared him dead on arrival. No one else was harmed.

In that morning’s broadcast of Ratsada, Maestrado’s show in which he highlighted abuses of power by local politicians, the DJ criticised a local politician over the purchase of construction equipment.

Colleagues described the journalist as “hard-hitting”, citing the tattoo of the word “corruption” on his arm. Radio station manager Remegio Bonustro said: "He was a good man, kind-hearted and helped many people."

Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma condemned the attack and ordered superintendent Archival Macala to set up a task force to investigate the killing. “Both motorcycles are now in the custody of the police,” said Macala to the Philippines News Agency.

The assassination comes a week after unidentified gunmen shot dead radio reporter and human rights activist Teodoro Escanilla in front of his home in Sorsogon province. A day prior, newspaper columnist and publisher Gregory Ybanez was gunned down in southern Tagum City.

National Police Director General Ricardo Marquez Philippines  said police are giving "priority concern" to the attacks.

Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asia representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), remains unconvinced. He said, "The murder of three journalists in two weeks shows how the lack of progress in ending impunity has emboldened those bent on silencing the press in the Philippines. Until Aquino demonstrates his government is serious about ending the onslaught, the killings will inevitably continue.”

Life for journalists in the Philippines is as dangerous as it ever was, despite president Benigno Aquino III's repeated pledges to act strongly against those who attack members of the media.

Rowena Paraan, Chairwoman of the National Union of Journalists in The Philippines, told Voices in Danger: “We expected the President to be more decisive in responding to murders because his own father was assassinated, but killings continue with impunity.” Paraan’s long-running campaign for justice for 32 journalists massacred in Ampatuan in 2009, has left her facing charges of contempt.

The Philippines experienced a 70% rise in impunity since 2009, and has one of the world's highest rates of unsolved media killings.

Voices in Danger contacted the Filipino Embassy in London but received no response.

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