‘We’ll get Sumera killers’
P-Noy says cops pursuing slay suspects
PRESIDENT Aquino yesterday assured the public that the Thursday killing of public service broadcaster Marlina Flores-Sumera would soon be solved.
The President said he had received reports that the National Capital Region Police Office had identified and were in pursuit of the killer. ( See related story on Page A13.)
“Given that, [and with] the cooperation of witnesses, I am confident that we will be able to bring this perpetrator to justice,” Mr. Aquino told reporters after speaking before the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc.
Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo called a meeting at the National Police Commission in Makati City hours after Sumera, 45, was shot dead and killed a few meters from her house in Malabon
City on Thursday morning.
Robredo ordered Supt. Danilo Cabatu, deputy chief of police of Malabon, to immediately work on the case.
“The secretary said the case must be prioritized,” said Senior Supt. Cornelio Barrios, Malabon chief of police.
Robredo called the meeting following a visit on Thursday afternoon by members of Silonian Homeowners Association, who personally reported to him the killing of Sumera, their president.
Mr. Aquino told reporters he had received information that Sumera was killed in connection with a property dispute.
“My understanding is that [she was killed] not because she was [a member of the] media but primarily because of a land issue. It appeared from yesterday’s information that she was up against a professional squatting syndicate,” he said.
More difficult to solve
Speaking with reporters, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima admitted that the government was facing some difficulty in solving the murders of journalists because the motives for the killings might not be related to their work.
“We can admit to a certain extent that we are having a difficult time with the media killings. But of course we have to dispute anybody who says that we are not doing anything because we are doing something about it,” she said.
De Lima said it was for this reason that the killing of Sumera was immediately referred for investigation by the Department of Justice’s task force on extralegal and media killings headed by Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III.
De Lima said that compared to the murders of leftist activists, it was more difficult to solve media killings because of the various motives that could range from political to personal or work-related.
She noted that the motives for a number of media killings had turned out to be personal.
“But whatever is the motive, it’s still killing. And when you target a media personality, that is really bad for any society [because] that is killing the messenger,” De Lima said.
6 years to the day
In a statement yesterday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) criticized Mr. Aquino’s supposed failure to pursue justice for the slain journalists.
CPJ also noted that the killing of Sumera occurred on the sixth anniversary of the murder of journalist Marlene Esperat, who was shot dead in front of her children in their home in Sultan Kudarat on March 24, 2005.
“Six years to the day after Marlene Garcia-Esperat was shot and killed, ... Sumera’s death serves as a tragic reminder that Philippine journalists are still at risk, and that President Benigno Aquino is failing to push for justice for their slain colleagues,” CPJ Asia program coordinator Bob Dietz said in a statement.
“Manila police must immediately respond to this murder and investigate whether Sumera was killed for her work. But beyond that, it is Aquino’s responsibility to reverse the entrenched climate of impunity which allows these murders to continue,” Dietz said.
The Philippines is third on CPJ’s impunity index in 2010, “making it one of the worst nations in the world in combating deadly anti-press violence.” (CPJ’s statement explained that its index calculated unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country’s population.)
In a statement, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) called on President Aquino and police authorities to “immediately resolve” the case, saying that the “gruesome crime” was a “a curtailment of press freedom.”
“We demand that P-Noy ... swiftly serve justice… and let the perpetrators and masterminds be put behind bars,” said Paulo Quiza, Bayan-National Capital Region spokesperson.
According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Sumera was the fourth journalist to be killed under the Aquino administration and the 143rd since the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in 1986.
Initial investigation showed that Sumera’s killing was not work-related because she is not known to be a hard-hitting radio commentator.
In an interview with the INQUIRER, Chief Supt. Edgardo Ladao, director of the Northern Police District, said the format of Sumera’s program was “purely for public service.”
Thus, Ladao said, she could not have stepped on powerful toes.
Police have suggested land dispute as a possible angle, considering that Sumera was working for the “reblocking and chopping” of a 4.2-hectare property to give way to a National Housing Authority project, which was vehemently opposed by members of another homeowners association.
Kapitbahayang Samahan sa Maysilo (Kasama), led by Emma Nuqui, has insisted that the land was owned by Paulino Lazaro. But Sumera’s group, together with members of Barangay Maysilo Neighborhood Association and Sitio Rosal Neighborhood Association, believes that the property is owned by the government.
On Monday, a temporary restraining order (TRO) filed by Kasama against the roadwidening project was denied by the Malabon Regional Trial Court.
It was the second TRO that the group had filed. The first was filed in December 2010 and was quickly denied by the court.
An injunction hearing is set on April 4.
Dante Flores, vice president of Silonian Homeowners Association, told the INQUIRER that the results of Monday’s hearing could have had something to do with Sumera’s killing. He noted that the killing occurred only days after the court dismissed Kasama’s petition for a second TRO. He said police should not discount this in their investigation.
Flores said he himself had been receiving death threats. He said that right after Sumera’s killing, talk of him being the next target was rife in the area.
“I have relayed this to District Director Ladao,” he said.
Asked to comment, Ladao said he would instruct the Malabon police to provide Flores temporary security.
He said witnesses would be invited to provide descriptions of two of the four suspected killers.
Yesterday morning, a team led by Insp. George Gubatan, chief of the Station Investigation Division of the Malabon police, scouted the disputed area and listed the names of 29 families to be affected by the roadwidening project.
Gubatan said the list would help in the investigation of the case.