Suspect in murder of Philippine radio journalist surrenders

Suspect Joel Estorial, 38, handed himself and the alleged murder weapon over to police as he feared for his own safety.

Joel Estorial (centre), the alleged gunman in the killing of Philippine journalist Percival Mabasa, is presented to the media on October 18, 2022 [AFP]
Joel Estorial (centre) the alleged gunman in the killing of Philippine journalist Percival Mabasa, is presented to the media on October 18, 2022 [AFP]

A suspect in the murder of a veteran radio journalist in the Philippines has surrendered to authorities citing “fear for his personal safety” after his photo was released and a reward “placed on his head”, state media reported.

Radio personality Percival Mabasa, 63, who went by the name “Percy Lapid” in his show, was shot dead in a Manila suburb on October 3 as he drove to his studio. He was the second journalist to be killed since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr took office in June.

Interior secretary Benjamin Abalos said on Tuesday that Joel Estorial, 38, a resident of Quezon City, turned himself in to the police on Monday and handed over a gun which he said was the murder weapon.

“The gun matched the slug (from the crime scene). The ballistics matched,” Abalos told reporters, calling the surrender a “major breakthrough”.

The official Philippine News Agency (PNA) said that Estorial said he decided to surrender after his photo was released as a suspect in the killing and more than 6.5m pesos ($110,000) were offered for his capture.

Police presented Estorial – wearing a bullet-proof vest and kevlar helmet – to the media on Tuesday but gave few details about his background.

The suspect told reporters that he and three others took part in the ambush on orders from an unnamed person at the country’s national prison, and that after the killing they divided up a 550,000-peso ($9,340) payment among themselves.

Estorial – who named his three other co-conspirators still at large – also said he would have been killed if he did not go through with the attack.

He did not cite the motive or identify the mastermind behind the killing, only that the order had come from someone inside the prison, according to the PNA.

The slain journalist’s relatives welcomed the arrest but stressed the authorities needed to do more.

“We hope this development leads to the identification, arrest and prosecution of the mastermind,” the victim’s brother Roy Mabasa said in a statement.

“We hope Percy does not become part of the statistics.”

Mabasa was an outspoken critic of former president Rodrigo Duterte, as well as of Marcos’s policies.

The Philippines is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, and killers often go unpunished.

A total of 155 journalists and media workers have been killed in the Philippines since 1992, according to the international media watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said holding the mastermind accountable for the killing of Mabasa “will help chip away at the culture of impunity around journalist killings” in the country.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies