Just a couple of days after the Maguindanao Massacre, armed men attack another journalist

I woke up to this Facebook status update today from Mindanao-based photojournalist Froilan Gallardo:

LESS than 48 hours after we attended the End the Impunity march and concert, gunmen attacked Bombo radio reporter and anchor Michael James Licuanan or popularly known as James Dacoycoy after he stepped out from his station in Cagayan de Oro City last night. Luckily, the gunmen missed Dacoycoy on their first shot. Dacoycoy fled to the nearest fire station in Cogon but was fired upon again. This time, the bullet found its mark, hitting Dacoycoy on his left buttock. The bullet exited through his stomach. He was still in intensive care as of 3am this morning. 

Terror has struck the very heart of the free press in Cagayan de Oro. The attack sent a chilling effect to all its members. We believed the attempt on his life was made after Dacoycoy assailed the nefarious drug trade in the city. Two months ago, the NUJP had asked reporters what issue they think would pose a great threat to their lives. Their answer is unanimous: drugs. They said if they received reports that journalists would be killed if they would touch on the drug trade in Cagayan de Oro.

I never thought such things could happen in Cagayan de Oro. Not in the city of my birth. But it has and it must be condemned.

This comes a bit of a shock to the city, especially since the Cagayan de Oro press has always been proud to be free, even during the height of Marcos’ Martial Law. Several of its members even claim that the local media was among the earliest in the country which celebrated Press Freedom Day.

A few years ago, Cagayan de Oro RMN radio commentator and later city councilor Zaldy Ocon was also allegedly attacked by unknown men. But many in the local media community dismissed it as a case of “ambush-me” or self-orchestrated attack. Ocon has denied the accusations but the belief among local journos persisted.

In the case of Licuanan or Dacoycoy (as how many among us address him), it is very much real and serious. And this is something which as Froilan said above, would strike fear into the hearts of journalists in Ang Dakbayan sa Bulawanong Panaghigalaay (The City of Golden Friendship). 

I had worked with James back then in the local crime beat. I was with the guy in several anti-drug raids, press conferences and special coverages. And the guy never fails to bring a few laughs to the group. Recalling his gregarious nature, I cannot imagine how someone would find reasons to kill him.

Aside from what happened to Dacoycoy, another journalist was also threatened in Butuan City just a couple of days earlier. ABS-CBN Butuan reporter Rodge Cultura was tipped off that some businessmen gave out a P 50,000 bounty on his head. Cultura’s reports on the illegal logging operations in the area apparently ruffled some feathers.

And so it would seem that the culture of impunity is very much alive in this country. Long live Philippine democracy!

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