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Head of local press group slain in southern Philippines



Head of local press group slain in southern Philippines

August 20, 2015, 2:51 am


Davao (Philippines) (AFP) - The head of a local press association in the southern Philippines has been killed in an ambush, sparking condemnation on Wednesday from a national government embarrassed by a spate of unsolved media murders.

Gregory Ybanez was shot several times in front of his house in the southern city of Tagum late Tuesday and died several hours later, a police report said. The suspects fled.

The 67-year-old victim was head of the Press Radio and TV Club in the province of Davao del Norte and the publisher of a local weekly "Bell of the Community", police said. He was also a member of the board of the province's electric utility.

While the Philippines is known as one of the most dangerous places for journalists, a colleague said he did not believe Ybanez's murder was related to his media work.

The press group's vice-president Ciriaco Conejos told AFP he believes the killing was due to a leadership rift in the power company.

Tagum police said the motive for the killing has yet to be determined.

"We strongly condemn the killing of Mr. Gregory Ybanez," President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Herminio Coloma said in a statement.

According to Conejos, a funeral wreath from an unknown source had been delivered to Ybanez's home in 2012 at the height of a management conflict at the power distributor.

In the Philippines a wreath given to a living person is seen as a death threat.

The Committee to Protect Journalists lists 77 media workers killed in work-related incidents in the Philippines since 1992.

The worst incident came in 2009 when gunmen of a political clan allegedly killed 58 people including 32 media workers in the southern Philippines to keep a rival from running against one of their members.

Critics have blamed a widespread "culture of impunity" in the country where powerful figures believe they can commit crimes and get away unscathed.