[Alert] Masbate journo killed by soldiers

A freelance journalist in Masbate province was gunned down by soldiers in Milagros town on Saturday, November 14, in what authorities claimed was an “encounter” but which the victims’ colleagues denied.

The killing of Ronnie Villamor, 50, a stringer for a local tabloid who was also a pastor, prompted Masbate Provincial Board Member Jamon Jardi Espares to call for an investigation into what he described as a string of killings in “alleged encounters” with the military, among whose victims are village officials.

A spot report on the incident from Milagros police chief Major Aldrin Rosales quoted Army troops, led by 2nd Lieutenant Maydim Jomadil as saying they were investigating the presence of five armed men in Barangat Matanglad who fled at their approach.

Villamor, who was described as a “suspect,” supposedly drew a firearm when ordered to stop as he rode his motorcycle, and was shot dead.

However, his colleagues, including members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said Villamor had gone to Matanglad with four surveyors from Legazpi City at the request of the landowner “to provide media coverage of the activity.” A local journalist told NUJP that parties in land disputes often request media coverage for activities such as surveys, apparently believing journalists’ presence will prevent violence.

Villamor’s colleagues said the victim and his companions even “coordinated with the local police and inform(ed) them of their purpose in going to Matanglad.”

They added that the survey did not push through because “they were prevented by a group of soldiers from doing so.” Instead, Villamor and his companions decided to phone the local police for assistance.

“It was at that moment that several gunfires (sic) were heard” and Villamor was killed, they said.

Villamor is the fourth journalist murdered in Masbate after Joaquin Briones (March 13, 2017), Antonio Castillo (June 12, 2009), and Nelson Nedura (December 2, 2003).

He is the 19th slain during the Duterte administration and the 191st since 1986. He was also the second killed this month, only four days after NUJP member Virgilio Maganes, who had survived an attempt on his life in 2016, was shot dead outside his home in Villasis town, Pangasinan.