Second Philippine journalist gunned down

A hard-hitting newspaper and radio journalist was fatally shot in the central Philippines, and police said Friday they were investigating whether his reporting on alleged corruption by customs officials led to his murder. George Benaojan, 27, was talking to a man in front of a store in Cebu city on Thursday evening when an unidentified man shot him in the mouth, chest and neck with a .45-caliber pistol, regional police commander Chief Superintendent Edward Gador said. Benaojan died later at a hospital, Gador said, adding that a stray bullet also wounded a woman passer-by. Police suspect Benaojan's commentaries on Cebu Radio DYBB accusing officials in the Bureau of Customs of corruption may have played a role in his killing, Gador said, but he offered no other details.

The provincial vice governor, Gregorio Sanchez Jr., urged police and the National Bureau of Investigation to promptly investigate the killing. Benaojan, who also worked for the newspaper Bantay Balita, was the 10th reporter killed in the Philippines this year and the 73rd slain since 1986.

Last month, Roberto Ramos, a reporter for the tabloid Katapat, was shot in the head near Manila. Police on Thursday charged two brothers with the murder, saying they were angry that the reporter had tipped off authorities that they sold pirated DVDs.

A court in Cebu earlier this week sentenced a former policeman to life in prison for the murder of Edgar Damalerio, managing editor of the Mindanao Scribe and a commentator for DXKP radio, in southern Pagadian city in May 2002.

Most of the other cases have remained unsolved, prompting the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists to describe the Philippines as the world's most "murderous" country for journalists, reports the AP. I.L.

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