Murder charges filed against 2 men in murder of journalist

Jess Malabanan

The Philippine National Police has filed a murder complaint against two suspects in the killing of Pampanga-based journalist Jesus “Jess” Malabanan in Samar province last December, a Malacañang official said Wednesday.

Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, head of the Presidential Task Force on Media Safety (PTFoMS), said the PNP Special Investigative Task Force had “successfully completed” its investigation by filing the case of murder of Aries Solomon and Jerry Trinidad at the Calbayog City Attorney’s Office on Wednesday. , even though the suspects were still at large.

“I commend the men and women of the PNP who have worked tirelessly in the investigation into the murder of my colleague and friend, Jess Malabanan. We are very grateful for your prompt and thorough work in identifying the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” Egco said in a statement.

Pattern

He, however, did not say how the pair were connected to the murder or whether they were involved in a land dispute that Malabanan helped resolve for farmers in Calbayog, his hometown. Police Lieutenant Aileen Velarde, Samar Provincial Police Information Officer, said the motive for the killing was a land dispute and was unrelated to Malabanan’s work as a journalist.

“Our investigation showed that Malabanan’s murder was not linked to the fact that he was a journalist but to a land dispute which led to [a] personal grudge,” Velarde said.

Investigators, however, could not say if the suspects were members of a gun gang.

Velarde said Malabanan had helped some people in Barangay San Joaquin, Tinambacan district, who were involved in a land dispute. Egco said the two men lived in Tinambacan.

On December 8 last year, Malabanan was visiting his sick mother in Calbayog and guarding the family shop when he was attacked around 6pm. His widow, Mila, said her husband was shot in the head at close range.

Footage taken by security cameras helped identify the suspects. Police said Solomon shot and killed Malabanan while Trinidad rode the getaway motorcycle.

find the brain

Velarde said Solomon and Trinidad were also identified by witnesses as the same people who conspired to kill Malabanan. She did not provide details of the plot. In a text message Thursday, Mila told the Inquirer that she hoped the suspects and the still-unnamed mastermind would soon be arrested.

The 58-year-old veteran journalist has written for international news wire Reuters, Manila Standard Today and Bandera. Malabanan covered the pace of defense until the 1990s before moving to Angeles City in Pampanga, where he became a member of the Pampanga Press Club (PPC).

According to Egco, Malabanan planned to retire to Samar to oversee his farm.

In 2019, Malabanan told his PPC colleagues that he had helped several farmers settle a land dispute in Calbayog.

PPC members asked Egco to identify and imprison the brain. Egco earlier said “someone powerful” was behind the suspects.

Although Malabanan received threats in 2017 while working on an article for Reuters and received police security from the PTFoMS at that time, Egco said his death could not be immediately linked to his journalist work.

Malabanan’s close friends and colleagues said he had no known enemies and was not a hard-hitting journalist, supporting Egco’s claim that the killing was not work-related.

Egco said at least 68 “media killers” had been convicted by different courts across the country in 2021.

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