BY JOEL M. SY EGCO SENIOR REPORTER
GASPING for her last breath, journalist Rubylita Garcia identified the police chief of Tanza town in Cavite province as the “brains” behind her shooting, the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) said on Monday.
In a statement, NPC President Benny Antiporda, who is also the owner of the tabloid Remate where Garcia wrote, said the victim managed to tell her son just minutes after she was shot that Supt. Conrado Villanueva was the only person who wanted her dead.
“While we welcome the PNP’s immediate decision to form a special investigation task group [SITG] that would directly report to Cavite provincial police director, Senior Supt. Joselito Esquivel, the NPC remains doubtful as to whether justice would be rendered to Rubie in the swiftest time possible—the main purpose for the formation of the SITG,” Antiporda said.
In Malacanang, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Philippine National Police (PNP) is now tracking down the suspect in the killing of Garcia, who is also a correspondent of the local paper Pilipino Times.
“We extend our condolences to the family of the late Rubylita Garcia and we promise that we will pursue this heinous death of… And we will, as we have said, tracker teams are already in place to look for the suspect,” Lacierda said, quoting PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Theodore Sindac.
For his part, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., citing field reports, said that Supt. Villanueva has been relieved from his post as Tanza chief of police. Supt. Joseph Javier, Coloma added, was appointed officer in charge of the police office.
Garcia, 52, widow and regular member of the NPC was shot a number of times at her house last Sunday morning. She succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds hours later.
At about 12 noon, also on Sunday, the SITG was activated, spearheaded by the provincial police director.
Lacierda said the investigator on case was able to produce an artist’s sketch of the suspect through the statement of the lone witness “whose identity we will keep confidential.”
“A dedicated tracker team was organized and conducting follow up operations against the suspect. The body of the victim presently lies at La Bien funeral parlor, Brgy. Maliksi, Bacoor City,” the Palace official said.
Meanwhile, Antiporda said Garcia’s death was a “litmus test” on government’s resolve to stop impunity, especially since the alleged mastermind in the killing is a ranking official of the PNP.
“The SITG, in so many instances, whether probing the death of journalists or any other prominent personality, is never a guarantee that the culprits would be arrested and the brains unmasked before the ‘trail of the crime,’ so to speak, turns cold,” the NPC leader stressed.
“Aggravating this suspicion is the dismal and horrifying record of the Aquino administration in solving media killings, which is NEAR ZERO,” he pointed out.
Since Aquino became president, 20 journalists have been killed, raising the number of slain mediamen to 160 since democracy was restored in 1986.
He cited the case of Puerto Princesa City broadcast journalist, Doctor Gerry Ortega in 2012, where the principal suspects, former Governor Joel Reyes and his brother, remain at large.
“The last time we heard, they are having the best of times abroad, possibly in Canada or the United States,” Antiporda added.
He raised the spectre of a “whitewash” in Garcia’s case because the investigators are his fellow PNP officers.
“The naming of Supt. Villanueva, a ranking, fellow police officer of many in the SITG, has certainly added complexity to their investigation,” Antiporda pointed out.
Nevertheless, he explained, the naming of Supt. Villanueva “should also be an opportunity for him to clear his name.”