Bicol bishop slams broadcaster's slay: 'Voice of truth will never be stifled'

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Bishop Joel Z. Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi on Saturday, July 21, joined other Bicol leaders in condemning the killing of radio broadcaster Joey Llana.

“I wish to extend my sincerest condolences to the bereaved family of Joey Llana, even as we condemn his murder,” Baylon said a statement on Saturday.

“Together with all peace-loving Albayanos, I pray that this crime will be solved soonest, the perpetrators be brought to justice, and that peace will reign in our land. The voice of truth will never be stifled,” the prelate said.

Llana was killed by unidentified suspects in Daraga town in Albay on Friday, July 21.

Known as a hard-hitting radio commentator, Llana was a blocktimer on DWZR. In his program, he targetted local politicians, government contractors, and illegal drugs; and tackled local issues.

Prior to the incident,  Llana reportedly received death threats from unknown persons but he disregarded them, according to his younger brother, Jun.

Planted evidence?

A search of the victim's vehicle carried out by the Philippine National Police uncovered 7 sachets of a white powdery substance and one yellowish powdery substance initially believed to be illegal drugs.

Chief Inspector Maria Luisa Calubaquib, PNP Bicol regional spokesperson, clarified on Saturday that the 7 sachets of white powder found in Llana’s sling bag were not illegal drugs.

“Update, the 7 sachets of powdery white substance found on Joey Llana’s bag are not illegal drugs,” Calubaquib said.

Members of Llana's family earlier disputed the suggestion that drugs were found among the slain broadcaster's possessions, noting that Llana was not a drug user. This was confirmed by his closest friends in the local broadcast industry, among them Edwin Peralta, newscaster and commentator of radio station DZGB.

Llana’s brother had suggested that the sachets of white power could have been planted to mislead investigators.

PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde had ordered Bicol police regional director Chief Superintendent Arnel Escobal to make the murder case a top priority, and to coordinate closely with the Presidential Task Force on Media Security to hasten the resolution of the case.

'Overhaul' administration policies

Lawmakers from Bicol urged the Duterte administration to do more than the usual promise to get to the bottom of Llana's case.

"It is not enough for the Duterte administration to vow swift justice for slain Albay broadcaster Joey Llana. It is also urgent for the government to immediately dismantle the growing culture of violence and impunity which emboldens assassins to murder journalists, local politicians, priests and ordinary citizens," said Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman.

"Knee-jerk reactions are mere ritual responses. What is necessary is a complete overhaul of the administration’s policies on crime prevention, adherence to due process and disavowal of violence and impunity," he added in his statement.

Senator Leila de Lima, who also hails from Bicol, described Llana as "another victim of the dark cloud of impunity enveloping our land."

"What could we expect but a spiral of violence and bloodshed when the centerpiece program of government, its all-out war against drugs, gave license to security forces and vigilantes to kill?" De Lima asked. 

If proven to be work-related, Llana's death would be the 12th media killing under President Rodrigo Duterte, and the third in Bicol and the 185th since 1986. 

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had deemed the Philippines as the deadliest country for journalists in Asia in 2017. – Rappler.com