MANILA – Barely two months into the killing of veteran journalist Jesus “Jess” Malabanan, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, Executive Director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), on Wednesday said a murder complaint has been formally filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) against two suspects in connection with the crime.
Egco said the PNP’s Special Investigation Task Group (PNP-SITG) formed to thoroughly probe the murder of Malabanan has successfully completed its initial findings with the filing of a murder charge against suspects Aries Solomon and Jerry Trinidad, both of Tinambacan District, Calbayog City, before the Office of the Prosecutor of Calbayog and docketed under NPS No. VIII-10-INV-22B-00030.
"I commend the men and women of the PNP who worked tirelessly in the investigation into the killing of my colleague and friend, Jess Malabanan. We are very grateful for your swift and thorough work in identifying the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” Egco said.
Egco, who has been in constant coordination with the SITG Malabanan, said he has absolute confidence in the investigation done by the PNP.
“I am confident that justice will soon be achieved in this case. The government through this Presidential Task Force created by President Rodrigo Duterte will not stop until the perpetrators of this dreadful act are made to pay for their crimes,” he said.
Malabanan, a correspondent for various news outfits, was shot dead by motorcycle “riding-in-tandem” gunmen inside his small store in Calbayog City on Dec. 8, 2021.
Earlier, the PNP-SITG confirmed that while Malabanan worked as a journalist, his murder was not related to his work.
According to the PNP, the most probable motive for the killing was a dispute over a large tract of land in Calbayog. Malabanan represented a group of poor farmers who were fighting for their rights over the property.
Despite the pronouncement that the killing was not related to his work, Egco vowed that the masterminds and their cohorts will be put behind bars utilizing all available manpower and resources at the President’s disposal, adding that “we owe it to the Filipino people to solve this case.”
The formal filing of the charges against the two suspects was a welcome relief for the wife, relatives, and friends of Malabanan.
The murder complaint was formally received by Assistant City Prosecutor Ferdinand S. Arpon.
The SITG is composed of the 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.
Created by President Rodrigo Roa 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.
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 Philippine courts.
And with the appointment of new media security vanguards all over the country headed by PNP Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Roderick Augustus Alba, apprehensions and convictions of media killers are expected to increase. (PR)