A radio commentator was shot dead after leaving a radio station in the city of Cebu in the central Philippines on Thursday, July 22.
Reynante Cortes, anchorperson of the commentary program “Engkwentro,” was shot and killed in front of radio station DyRB about nine o’clock in the morning. He was 45.
The still-unidentified gunman fled on a motorcycle, said witnesses.
Police investigators are looking into the commentator’s background for possible motives for the killing.
The Presidential Task Force on Media Security “denounce[d] the brutal murder,” in a statement released by its executive director, Joel Sy Egco.
“Rest assured that we will get to the bottom of this heinous crime,” said Egco.
“We have already directed law enforcement agencies to use all available resources to bring to justice the perpetrators,” he added.
Initial report submitted to the task force revealed that about 9:10 in the morning, Cortes was shot in the abdomen by unknown gunmen as he came out of the radio station. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Egco has ordered the Philippine National Police “to thoroughly look into the case to find out if the incident.”
Cortez has earlier survived an attempt on his life, according to the task force. He was also arrested in 2006 for alleged extortion.
In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in Cebu expressed alarm over attacks against journalists and media workers that it said “continue to rise and are being normalized.”
“We further condemn the culture of impunity that emboldens these perpetrators to commit these crimes,” the group said.
The Cebu Citizens-Press Council urged authorities “to investigate thoroughly and speedily” the killing of Cortes.
“Whether he was a regular staff member or blocktimer of DyRB does not change this fact: He was a media practitioner whose killers should be arrested and prosecuted,” read a statement signed by lawyer Pachico Seares, executive director of the council.
“Media workers are not special people and do not expect special treatment,” said Seares, adding that the local community of journalists “will be content with diligent crime investigation that, sadly, people had not seen applied to similar cases of violence against media workers and other high-profile personalities.”
The group said it “worries about how another unsolved murder of a media worker could heighten the state of impunity that various sectors of society, not just the press, fear and condemn.”
“If a media worker’s life could be easily snuffed out, violence could replace democracy’s regular means of discourse,” said Seares in the statement.
The NUJP noted that there have been 223 incidents of attacks and threats against members of the media since 2016. The group recorded 19 killings, eight assassination attempts and 52 incidents of intimidation.
The Philippines ranks 136th out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index that indicates the “difficult situation” of press freedom in the country.