MALACANANG PALACE, Manila: The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) in a statement has ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to intensify its manhunt operations for the suspected killer of Remate columnist Jupiter Gonzales and his friend, Christopher Tiongson, after an alias warrant was recently issued by a Regional Trial Court (RTC) for double murder.
Responding to the call, the Pampanga Police Provincial Office (PPO) has created special tracker teams to hunt down and bring to justice accused Armando Maglaya Velasco a.k.a. “Ambet”, said to be a local carnival (perya) operator and primary suspect in the twin-murder, after Judge Mary Jane Dacara Buenaventura of Branch 43 of the RTC of San Fernando City issued an alias warrant under Criminal Case No. 29647.
“They may run and they may hide, but the PNP will be undeterred in their duty to apprehend these criminals. There is no escaping the law especially in this Administration.” PTFoMS Co-Chair and Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin M. Andanar said.
For his part, PTFoMS Executive Director Usec Joel SyEgco, a veteran journalist and colleague of Gonzales, explained that “With the help of our desicated police officers, the Task Force is relentless and unwavering in its quest to bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime against my friend and colleague, Jupiter Gonzales. Failure to arrest this criminal is not an option.”
Gonzales and Tiongson were shot dead on 20 October 2019 while inside a car apparently after a heated altercation with the suspect involving the operation of a local “perya” or carnival.
According to Police Lt. Col. Eduardo Guevara, Jr., Arayat Chief of Police, the evidence against Velasco is strong as the bullets recovered from the victims’ bodies were positively identified through forensic examination as emanating from the gun that belonged to Velasco. Said firearm was surrendered by Velasco’s relative after the killings.
With a dedicated mandate to resolve media killings in the country, Egco recently announced the 50th case of media killing that resulted in a guilty verdict with the conviction of accused Leonardo Banaag, Jr. for the murder of Ilocos-based radio broadcaster Jovelito Agustin.
This brings to 67 the total number of media killers that were convicted by the courts, the Palace official said.
Egco pointed out that from one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, the Philippines’ status has greatly improved ever since Duterte assumed the presidency in 2016.
In 2018, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres or RSF) for the first time has delisted the Philippines in its list of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world.
More recently, Egco said that the country was declared as the “biggest mover” by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) in its annual Global Impunity Index (GII) released last October 28, 2020. The Philippines is also not included in CPJ’s list of “World’s Worst Places to Be a Journalist” or “10 Most Censored Countries”.
Egco emphasized that the campaign to end media violence will be another of President Duterte’s legacies to the Filipino people.
(JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL/PMT/SRNY/RSP)