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Wednesday, 26 January 2011

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Hitmen paid for journalist killing

PHILIPPINE: Philippine police said Tuesday a gunman who killed a crusading journalist had confessed to carrying out the murder for a share of 150,000 pesos ($3,370).

Police said the assassin told them after his arrest that he and an accomplice, who remains at large, had been contracted to kill radio broadcaster Gerardo Ortega Monday to stop his criticism of unnamed powerful people.

“The two men who paid them said their boss wanted to silence Ortega,” local Police Chief Superintendent Roland Amurao told AFP, adding that they might have been working on behalf of mining interests.

“They were first given 10,000 pesos each and some operational funds, and the rest was to have been paid after the deed was accomplished.”

He said the total amount to be shared between the two men was 150,000 pesos, which is a fortune for many in the Philippines where a third of the population lives on less than 45 pesos ($1) a day.

Ortega was shot in the head while shopping in a clothing store in Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan island, on Monday morning shortly after he finished his daily broadcast.

The gunman, Marlon de Camata, was detained while trying to escape the scene, police said.

The identities of the men who approached de Camata as well as their supposed “boss” were still being verified and could not be publicly released due to the sensitivity of the investigation, Amurao said.

However, he said the ownership of the gun used in the shooting was traced to a lawyer who had been known to represent mining interests in the past.

“We are looking at that as a possible motive. Ortega’s hard-hitting commentaries were targeted against mining companies he had accused of destroying Palawan’s environment,” Amurao said.

He described the slain journalist as a staunch environmentalist, who regularly went to church and was well-liked on the island.

Media and rights groups say the Philippines is one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists. They say a culture of impunity pervades the country, where powerful figures often act above the law and firearms proliferate. Manila, Tuesday, AFP

 

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