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Wounded in the first burst of gunfire, Christopher Guarin jumped out of his car apparently to make sure his wife and daughter, who were with him, would not be hit by any bullets. He didn’t get very far.

The two gunmen, who had been chasing his car while riding a motorcycle in tandem, caught up with him and fired more shots as he lay on the ground, pleading for his life.

The 41-year-old publisher and editor in chief of the daily tabloid Tatak became the first journalist killed this year in the Philippines, a country often described as among the most dangerous places in the world for media people.

Guarin was also the 10th journalist killed since President Aquino took office in June 2010 and the 150th since democracy was restored in the Philippines by a People Power Revolt in 1986.

Guarin’s wife Lyn suffered a superficial wound but their 9-year-old daughter was unscathed by the attack, which occurred at about 10 p.m. on Thursday as Guarin was driving his family home to Sunrise Subdivision in Barangay Lagao here.

Freddie Solinap, manager of the tabloid Tatak, said that Guarin, who was also a radio commentator, had frequently received anonymous death threats, the last one a text message on his mobile phone hours before the attack.

“If you show up at the station tonight we’re going to kill you,” it said.

Guarin later showed up for work and read the death threat on his evening talk show at dxMD station—without knowing it would be the last warning to him.

Shot several times

Lyn told reporters her husband had fetched her from the Tatak office at past 9 p.m.  She said that while their car was approaching Sunrise Subdivision, two men on a motorcycle tried to overtake them.

The men—using handguns—fired on her husband, who was hit by the first shot, she said. Despite being wounded, she said, her husband remained very much conscious and managed to jump out.

“Before he jumped out, he told us to drop down. He said the men were out to kill him,” Lyn said.

She said Guarin ran as fast as he could but the armed men pursued him. They shot him several times, she said.

‘It’s finished’

“I could no longer count the number of shots. But I saw my husband lying on the ground helpless, pleading with the suspects not to kill him. His pleading fell on deaf ears,” Lyn said.

Before the two gunmen fled, Lyn said she heard one of them say: “Human na (It’s finished).”

Lyn said she could not clearly see the attackers’ faces but remembered that one of them was “chubby and wore a bullcap and a jacket.”

The motorcycle the assailants used was a white Honda XRM. The only numbers she could remember was “41,” the last digits on the license plate.

Possible motive

Solinap told reporters that Guarin was used to receiving threatening text messages but had no hint the last text message he read on radio would come true.

After his program, Guarin went to the Tatak office along Bulaong Avenue to fetch his wife and daughter.

“I suspect this has something to do with his business as newspaper publisher and editor,” Solinap said.

Police investigator Gerald Jubelag said no suspects had been arrested but authorities were looking at possible business rivalry as a motive.

Cleared of involvement

After the killing of media worker Alfredo Velarde of Brigada News on Nov. 11, Guarin was one of those invited by the police for questioning. Brigada is Tatak’s rival newspaper.

“My husband was cleared of any involvement in the Velarde killing,” Lyn said.

Before publishing his newspaper, Guarin was Bombo Radyo reporter for three years up to 1998. He transferred to GMA Super Radyo, where he eventually became the station manager. When Super Radyo was shut down, he engaged in business. In the 2010 elections, he ran for city councilor but lost.

Killing condemned

Mr. Aquino’s spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, condemned the killing of Guarin.

“The PNP (Philippine National Police) has identified leads and they are in hot pursuit. We will expect the PNP to hopefully apprehend the suspects,” Lacierda said.

Lawmakers urged Mr. Aquino to set up a team of private prosecutors to spearhead an investigation into unresolved killings of journalists.

“We are making this proposal as we condemn the latest killing of another journalist in Mindanao. We need to have a firm resolve to end this impunity,” Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar and Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez of Negros Oriental said in a joint statement.

Evardone said the Philippines would continue to gain notoriety as the world’s most dangerous place for journalists as long as crimes against media people were not resolved.

Evardone and Benitez suggested that the private prosecutors “be clothed with vast authority to go after the perpetrators of these crimes.”

‘Killings should stop’

Edwin Espejo, chapter chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), urged authorities to immediately apprehend the killers. In a text message, Espejo said “The killings of mediamen and women should stop.”

Nestor Burgos, head of NUJP, said of Guarin’s murder: “This shows the Aquino administration has not really resolved this problem. Apparently, he is not doing enough. The killings are very much the same as in the previous administration.”

Media organizations and rights groups have called the Philippines one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists.

The NUJP put at 150 the number of journalists killed in the country since 1986. It listed 39 journalists killed in 2009, including at least 30 media workers gunned down in the Maguindanao massacre. Four journalists were killed in the country in 2010 and eight in 2011. With reports from Norman Bordadora, Gil Cabacungan and Inquirer Research

First posted 12:23 am | Saturday, January 7th, 2012