Suspect in murder of Philippine journalist surrenders

Police briefly wheeled the man — who was wearing a bulletproof vest and kevlar helmet — out to the media, but gave few details about his background



File photo
File photo

By AFP

Published: Tue 18 Oct 2022, 1:12 PM

A suspect who had allegedly gunned down a Philippine journalist surrendered to the authorities, the interior secretary said on Tuesday, calling it a "major breakthrough" in a case that drew international concern.

Radio personality Percival Mabasa, who went by the name "Percy Lapid" in his programme, was shot dead in a Manila suburb on October 3, as he drove to his studio.

He was the second journalist to be killed since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr took office on June 30.

Mabasa was an outspoken critic of former president Rodrigo Duterte, as well as of Marcos' policies and aides.

Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos said the suspect, Joel Estorial, had surrendered, and turned in a gun on Monday, "out of fear for [his] personal safety" as the police had broadcast his face from security footage taken shortly after the shooting.

"The gun matched the slug [from the crime scene]. The ballistics matched," Abalos told reporters, calling the surrender a "major breakthrough".

The police briefly wheeled the suspect, in a bullet-proof vest and kevlar helmet, out to the media, but gave few details about his background.

He told reporters that he and three others took part in the ambush on orders from an unnamed person at the country's national prison, and later split the 550,000 peso ($9,350) bounty among themselves.

Estorial — who named his three other co-conspirators still at large — also said that he was told he would be killed if he didn't go through with the attack.

He did not cite the motive nor did he identify the mastermind behind the killing.

Mabasa's relatives welcomed the arrest, but stressed that the authorities needed to do more.

"We hope this development leads to the identification, arrest and prosecution of the mastermind," the victim's brother Roy Mabasa said in a statement.

"We hope Percy does not become part of the statistics."

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said that holding the mastermind accountable would "help chip away at the culture of impunity around journalist killings" in the country.

A total of 155 journalists and media workers have been killed in the Philippines since 1992, according to international media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists.

This is more than seven per cent of the 2,175 media worker killings worldwide during the period.

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