By Richel V. Umel
Unidentified gunmen shot dead two media workers in separate incidents in the Philippines over the weekend, including one who might have been targeted by sympathizers of the Islamic State (IS), police investigators and a journalists’ union said Monday.
Jessie Cano, 50, was killed in the southern Philippine city of Marawi on Saturday, while Manuel Lacsamana was ambushed on the same day in the northern city of Cabanatuan, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said.
The group called on the government to investigate and bring the killers to justice.
“Cano was shot four times in the back near his residence,” Marawi Police Chief Jama Adiong said.
Cano was a long-time employee of DSXO radio station in Marawi and was an army reservist who reported to the local military brigade, investigators said.
Police said they suspected his death could be related to his work with the military and that he could have been targeted by sympathizers of groups linked to last year’s attack in Marawi.
Pro-IS militants attacked Marawi in May 2017, leading to a five-month battle that killed about 1,200 people, most of them militants led by Isnilon Hapilon, the acknowledged IS leader in the Philippines.
Hapilon and his top lieutenants were killed in October, ending the siege, although the military said dozens of militants had escaped.
“The enemy might have suspected that he was working with the army, or second, that the attack could be a personal grudge,” Adiong said.
Lacsamana, meanwhile, was gunned down by motorcycle-riding gunmen also Saturday. He was a contributor to a local publication and served as chairman of the board of the Central Luzon Media Association.
Police said the attack could be related to his other work as a contractor at a quarry site and a property developer. They did not elaborate.
If their killings were related to their work, they would be the 11th and 12th media workers killed since President Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2016. At least 183 members of the working press have been killed in the country since Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in 1986, according to Philippine media groups.
“The NUJP calls on the Philippine National Police as well as other government agencies to investigate these killings with dispatch, with the end view of solving these violent crimes and bringing justice to the victims as soon as possible,” the NUJP said.
It said that initial reports indicated that Lacsama’s killing was related to his being a property developer. “Nonetheless, he was associated with both a media outfit and a media organization.”