A SUSPECT in the killing of radio broadcaster Percival Mabasa has voluntarily surrendered, authorities announced on Tuesday.
In a news briefing streamed online, Interior Secretary Benjamin C. Abalos, Jr. said the gunman turned himself in because he feared for his safety after law enforcement agencies released photos of his face to the public.
The Interior chief said the Philippine National Police’s special task force on the radioman’s killing will continue its investigation to apprehend other individuals involved in the incident.
Mr. Abalos identified the suspect, who was presented to the media wearing a bulletproof vest and helmet, as Joel Salve Estorial, 39.
The suspect told the same briefing that he, along with three others, were contracted by someone from inside the national penitentiary. He said they were paid P550,000, which they divided among themselves.
Police earlier reported that the 63-year-old radio journalist was killed by two assailants while he was on board his vehicle at the gate of a residential compound in Las Piñas City on the evening of Oct. 3.
Roy Mabasa, the late broadcaster’s brother, thanked the police in a Facebook post for the progress in the case and expressed hope that the person who ordered the killing would also be brought to justice.
“We hope this development leads to the identification, arrest and prosecution of the mastermind,” he said. “We hope Percy does not become part of the statistics and continue to clamor for justice for Percy and the nearly 200 journalists killed since 1986.”
Global watchdog Reporters Without Borders earlier said at least 187 journalists in the Philippines have been killed in the last 35 years, including 32 killed in a single incident in 2009.
Mr. Mabasa’s case followed a fatal stabbing last month of radio journalist Rey Blanco in Negros Oriental in central Philippines.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) welcomed the development in the case.
“Accountability in this case will help chip away at the culture of impunity around journalist killings that media, civil society and government agencies have been working to change,” the group said in a statement.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla told a separate briefing that his department will protect the suspect, who will be tapped as a witness in the case “to the fullest extent possible.”
The Akbayan political party earlier said the killing highlights the prevailing culture of impunity in the country.
House Speaker Martin G. Romualdez said the arrest of the suspect is a step closer to resolving the murder case.
“The protection of members of the Fourth Estate is of paramount importance as they play a vital role in nation-building,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Mabasa’s YouTube Channel, which had over 200,000 subscribers, showed he had been critical of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte and some policies of current government officials. — John Victor D. Ordoñez