Journalist paralyzed in attack dies a decade on, waiting for justice

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in expressing our deepest sympathies over the tragic death of a senior journalist, paralysed in 2005 following a failed assassination attempt. The IFJ and the NUJP deplore the slow-pace of the court case against the journalists’ attackers, which has caused a decade of heartache and now his sad passing without justice.  

Alberto ‘Pastor’ Martinez, 57, was a hard-hitting broadcast journalist in North Cotabato, in the central Philippines when he was shot on the evening of April 10, 2005 following a number of death threats. Martinez was a block-timer who hosted his own program every Sunday night. He was shot 200 meters from his radio station in Barangay Osias, where the bullet pierced his spine and lodged in his liver, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Following the attempt on his life, Martinez identified the two alleged attackers as a neighbor Ronilo Quinones, businessman Romeo Aranta and soldier Alvaro Obregon, alleged as the gunman. In September 2005, Martinez filed charges against the trio; however the court did not start hearing the case for frustrated murder until 2007.

The NUJP said Obregon remains out on bail and is still in active duty with his superiors in the Philippine Army continuing to protect him, claiming he was in Sulu on a mission during the attack. Quinones also remains out on bail, while Araneta has been on the run since the trial began in 2007. In 2008, it is alleged that Obregon offered to pay out Martinez to drop the charges against him.

Following the attack, Martinez and his family have suffered tremendously, been forced to abandon their home and live separately with Martinez’s injuries forcing him into care. His wife survives by selling rice packages to farmers and his children continued to be supported by the Media Safety and Solidarity Fund (MSSF). MSSF is supported by donations from the Australian media, assisting colleagues in the Asia-Pacific region through times of emergency, war and hardship. In November 2014, an IFJ delegation met with Martinez’s family during its international mission to the Philippines, during which they also lobbied on his case.

The IFJ Asia Pacific acting director Jane Worthington said: “Just last year, the IFJ met with the Martinez family and heard this this deplorable story of justice denied and the horrific suffering that has created for his wife and children. The case against the attackers dragged on for an unnecessary number of years, which ultimately cost him his life and his ability to be with his family. The justice system in the Philippines has failed this family. Unfortunately though, this is not an isolated incident.”

The IFJ said the Martinez case is a text-book example of how the Philippine justice system is failing the victims of media attacks. Five years on from the Ampatuan massacre which resulted in the murder of 58 people, including 32 journalists, not a singer conviction has been handed down.

“Action needs to be taken to change the justice system in the Philippines,” the IFJ said.

The IFJ offers its deepest condolences to Martinez’s family. He is survived by his wife and two children and will be buried on January 24. The IFJ-NUJP international mission delegation is due to release its recommendations on January 23 on the IFJ website.  

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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