THE 50th media killing case in the country has resulted in the conviction of the accused, according to the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS).
According to Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, PTFoMS executive director, the accused in the killing of radio broadcaster Jovelito Agustin, also known as “Aksyon Lito,” was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Egco cited a 15-page decision dated Jan. 19, 2021 and promulgated on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021 in which Judge Romeo Agacita Jr. of Regional Trial Court Branch 27 of San Fernando, La Union province convicted Leonardo Banaag Jr. for the murder of Agustin.
He said the verdict was reported to PTFoMS during one of the meetings with the local Philippine National Police (PNP) called upon by the task force as part of its drive to monitor all cases of media killings nationwide.
A broadcaster for DZJC radio station in Laoag City in Ilocos Norte province, Agustin was on his way home near the vicinity of Barangay Barit in Laoag City when two motorcycle-riding gunmen shot him on the night of June 15, 2010.
Banaag was arrested by the police for the murder of Agustin a few months after the incident and remained in prison while the case was being tried by the court.
In the decision, the court ordered Banaag to indemnify the victim’s surviving heirs the total amount of P300,000.
It also convicted Banaag for the crime of attempted murder for shooting and injuring Joseph Agustin, the broadcaster’s companion at the time, and sentenced him to an indeterminate penalty of 6 to 8 years’ imprisonment.
“No media killing will ever go unpunished. This is the promise of President [Rodrigo] Duterte to our media workers in creating the PTFoMS. So far, 50 cases of media killings have resulted in the guilty verdict for their crimes against journalists. This, indeed, is concrete proof that the culture of impunity in the Philippines has come to an end,” Egco said.
He added his office has received reports from the PNP in Region 1 (Ilocos Region) that before the shooting, Agustin was known for criticizing local politicians for alleged corruption and ties to illegal gambling.
The local PNP also reported to the task force that Banaag was previously employed as part of the security detail of a former Bacarra town mayor.
Meanwhile, the PTFoMS issued certificates of commendation to the officers, men and women of the Laoag City police, recognizing the importance of the work done in the Agustin murder case, and thanked the Department of Justice prosecutors who handled the case.
“Despite the challenges at present, the task force remains committed, vigilant and relentless in its mandate in making sure that the life, liberty and security of media workers are protected. As long as this task force exists, come hell or high water and no matter who you are, anyone planning to harm any of our media workers will bear the full brunt of the law. The 50 convictions over the years would speak for themselves,” Egco said.
He added that the 50 guilty verdicts include the 31 in the Maguindanao Massacre case, 15 in other work-related killings and three in nonwork-related deaths.
Secretary Martin Andanar, Presidential Communications Operations Office secretary and PTFoMS co-chairman, also commended on the decision, saying Judge Rojas had finally given justice to the slain Agustin and his family.
”Justice has been achieved, and we’ll make sure that the likes of Banaag will feel the dire consequences of their heinous deeds. No matter how long it takes, the Duterte administration will always ensure that justice will be served to all perpetrators of media violence,” Andanar said.
Egco said there have been numerous incidents of media-related violence during the past administrations, prompting President Duterte to create the PTFoMS upon assuming office in 2016, specifically to monitor, investigate, resolve and prevent media killings.