Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Two part-time journalists slain in Kidapawan

Two peace advocates, also working as part-time journalists, were gunned down by unidentified men around 5 p.m. Monday (19 June) in Kidapawan City, around 850 kilometers south of Manila.

George Vigo, a contributor of the Union of Catholic Asian News, and his wife, Maricel Alave-Vigo, host of dxND Radio for Peace and executive director of the non-government Peoples’ Kauyahan Foundation, Inc. (PKFI), were shot dead in Sandawa district in front of the house of a provincial board member, according to a report by GMANews.Tv.

The Vigos, both former journalists and co-founders of the Federation of Reporters for Empowerment and Equality (FREE), were part-time media practitioners, a report by said.

George hosted “Tingog sa Kabatan-unan” (Voice of the Youth), a block time program of the CFSI aired over dxND-AM of the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation every Monday noon, while Mazel took the reigns of “Kalihukan sa Kongreso (Congress Affairs),” a Sunday noon block time program in the same radio station. The station is owned by North Cotobato first district Rep. Lala Taliño-Santos.

Both George and Maricel did not tackle news, topics, or commentaries that could have irked concerned parties or persons, according to Malou Manar, dxND’s program director.

Manar said the killing could have stemmed from the couple’s active participation on human rights activities and programs in the early 1990s. The Vigos though, have ceased their connections with progressive groups since 1996, Manar added.

Since 2000, the couple had been working for PKFI, an organization that facilitates peace forums and dialogues in the southern provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

The PKFI, supported by the United Nations Program for Internally Displaced Persons, has been implementing the Integrated Rehabilitation Project for displaced families in several villages in the said provinces.

George also worked as the project officer of the Mindanao youth leadership program of the Community and Family Services International (CFSI), a Cotabato City-based non-government organization (NGO) dealing with the rehabilitation of internally displaced persons, according to colleague Manar.

Maricel was also a part-time media relations officer of Rep. Taliño-Santos, and since early this year, was area coordinator of an NGO delivering solar resource services to villagers in remote areas.

Relatives of the Vigos said they were not aware the couple had enemies as they had been “roaming freely, not only around the city, but in other areas of the province and in Mindanao because of their job.”

They also said the NGOs in which the couple had been more recently affiliated were not connected with progressive groups in the province.

More than a month ago, a letter was addressed to “radio station DXND-AM” by a certain Henry Laot from Matina, Davao which contained a makeshift poster with the message “Kamatayon sa nagusporta sa CPP/NPA/NDF. Aralsa ang masa!” (“Death to the supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front. Masses, revolt!”) written in red paint.

Matina is a huge district in Davao and Laot’s address did not contain a street or number. The mail was sent on 16 May. Residents claim that they know of a Laot who was a former NPA member, but could not determine if the sender was the same former NPA member.

The station received the package around 2 p.m., hours after interviewing Karapatan (Rights), a human rights group based in Davao City, which spearheaded a fact-finding investigation on a reported grenade blast in the said city earlier in the said month. A bomb was also discovered (but later diffused) in the radio station’s parking lot three years ago. -- With reports from

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