(Photo from PTFoMS Facebook page)

MANILA – A month into the killing of veteran journalist Jess Malabanan, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), cites progress in the official investigation now being jointly conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

“We have made significant gains in the probe into the killing of my dear friend and colleague, Jess Malabanan, with the identification of persons of interests, one of which was found to have strong connections with local politicians. I commend the investigators for conducting a thorough probe that will definitely lead to the arrest of the perpetrators and the mastermind behind the attack,” Egco said in a news release.

Egco made the announcement during a virtual conference on Friday to discuss updates on the case that was attended by various law enforcement agencies, including officials from Police Regional Office 8 (PRO 8), Special Investigation Task Group (SITG), Task Force Usig, and the NBI. Both the PNP and the NBI are members of the Presidential Task Force.

“Now that both the PNP and the NBI are working together to solve this heinous crime, the country is assured that the investigation, in this case, will be swift, thorough and transparent,” Egco said. “We will go where the evidence leads us and arrest those responsible whoever or wherever they may be.”

Egco added that although this case has already been officially declared by PTFoMS to be not related to his work as a journalist, he vowed that the masterminds of this heinous crime and their cohorts will be put behind bars utilizing all available manpower and resources at the government’s disposal.

It should be recalled that the PNP-SITG revealed that the biggest possible motive for the killing of Malabanan was a dispute over a very large tract of land in Calbayog, based on the information culled by investigators from sworn testimonies of various witnesses. The SITG said Malabanan represented a group of poor farmers who have claims over the property.

Egco thanked the investigators for their “tireless efforts” to probe this media killing.

He said: “No violence against media workers will go unpunished under my watch in spite of the present difficulties brought about by the pandemic. We owe it to the Filipino people to solve this case.”

Malabanan, a correspondent for various other news outfits, was shot dead by motorcycle “riding-in-tandem” gunmen inside his small store in Calbayog City last Dec. 8, 2021.

The case conference was attended by the following officers, namely: PCol. Raymundo P Graveles - OIC, ORIDMD; PCol Peter U Limbauan, Sppo - SITG Commander; PLT Herbert Mendoza, CIDG8 - Asst. Commander; PLT Aileen G Velarde, SPPO – Spokesperson; PCPT Michael Justie T Baldugo, RLO8 - Legal Officer/Member; PLTCol Norman D Ala, SPPO - C, PIDMU/OIC, PIU; PLT Nesmark Dave J Julian, RCLO8 - PO Crime Lab; PMaj Ralph O Bangoy, RIU8 - TL, RIU Samar, RIU8; PCMS Ladislao Z Cabello, SPP - Coordinator/Case Record Officer; PLTCol Teodulfo C Manatad Iii, SPPO - COP Calbayog City; and, PSSG Emelito Y Bernales, SPPO – Investigator.

Also present were PLTCol Al Paglinawan, Head Secretariat of Task Force Usig, and Head Agent Carlo Limyu and Senior Agent Joselito Guellen of the NBI.

Created by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016, PTFoMS is mandated to "oversee, supervise and monitor" the investigation of cases of violence committed against media workers pursuant to Administrative Order No. 1.

For the past five years, PTFoMS has been at the forefront of the fight to protect the life, liberty, and security of media workers in the Philippines. Far less journalists have been killed ever since PTFoMS’ creation compared to the last two administrations that saw a slew of killings of media workers: 40 victims during the time of the presidency of the late Noynoy Aquino and 82 during President Gloria Arroyo.

In 2021, the PTFoMS recorded the 51st case of media killing that resulted in a guilty verdict, bringing to 68 the total number of media killers that were convicted by our courts. (PR)