PHILIPPINES: Gunmen ambush, murder radio journalist in the south

In brief: Radyo ng Bayan reporter is the fourth journalist killed in the Philippines this year

By Angilee Shah
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A radio journalist was shot and killed in the southern island province of Tawi-Tawi early Monday morning.

According to reports, a several gunmen opened fire on Vicente Sumalpong, 36, a journalist for state-run Radyo ng Bayan (People's Radio), his nephew, Ruelan Hope Borja, and his colleague, Vema Antham, while they were on their way to work in Bongao. Bojra was injured in the attack.

Atham told the Associated Press that she and Sumalpong "are not hard-hitting journalists" and police are not investigating the case as a politically-motivated homicide. Police director of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, Joel Goltiao, said that the police are searching for a suspect, Nur Suang, who was implicated in the murder of a cocktail hostess last week. Goltiao told reporters that Sumalpong helped arrange for the hostess' body to be sent home to a nearby province.

Sumalpong is the fourth journalist to be murdered in the Philippines this year, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP). Reporters Without Borders says at least 53 journalists have been killed since Gloria Arroyo became president in 1991.

Sumalpong's murder "highlights once more the government's failure to act decisively to staunch the rampant bloodshed that has cast doubts on its ability and commitment to defend democracy and freedom," NUJP said on its website. They are calling for government action to help stop deliberate attacks on the press.