Bislig mayor's driver to be charged for broadcaster's killing

Ruth Abbey Gita

THE Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) is mulling to file criminal charges against the driver of Bislig City, Surigao del Sur Mayor Librado Navarro for allegedly killing radio broadcaster Christopher Lozada in October 2017.

Undersecretary Joel Egco, executive director of PTFoMS, said a witness has surfaced, and claimed that Navarro's driver, a certain Rolly Mahilum, was the the suspect in Lozada's killing.

Egco said the witness does not know Mahilum's identity, but was able to recognize the suspect's face through a photo shown to him.

"On February 25, 2018, while browsing through the pictures of Mr. Lozada on the laptop computer of one of the late victim's staff, the witness, who is now in our custody, the principal eyewitness in the case, came across the photo of this man whom the witness identified without doubt as the man who shot Lozada," he told Palace reporters.

"The man was later identified by family and friends, by local sources there and other officials in Bislig City as Rolly Mahilum," he added.

Egco said the task force was planning to "immediately" file appropriate charges against Mahilum. He, however, refused to divulge further details so as not to "telegraph our punches to the other side."

Lozada was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Coleta village in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur on October 24, 2017.

Lozada had reportedly received threats from Navarro for filing a grave misconduct complaint against the mayor. The Office of the Ombudsman, in September 2017, ordered Navarro's removal from his post.

Navarro had denied a hand in the killing of Lozada.

Egco said the PTFoMS could not yet hold Navarro accountable for Lozada's death since the witness merely identified Mahilum as the suspect.

"Rolly Mahilum is, according to them -- our witnesses, our sources in Bislig -- still the driver, close aide of the family of the city mayor of Bislig. We do not claim that any of the family member is directly linked to the crime. But it depends after what Mahilum will say once we get him," he said.

"Rest assured that we are doing this because we are sincere, the government is sincere in running after everybody or anyone who threatens or even kills journalists, especially during the time of President Rodrigo Duterte," the Palace official added. (SunStar Philippines)