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Reporter shot dead in Philippines

Nerlita Ledesma led homeowners who sought ownership of their land through a government agency, the National Housing Authority

Gulf News

Manila: A reporter working for a tabloid was shot dead in front of her house in central Luzon yesterday morning, police said. She is the 31st journalist killed since Benigno Aquino took over as the president of the country in 2010.

A motorcycle-riding gunman shot Nerlita Ledesma, 47, near her house at Sitio San Rafael, Tuyo village. She was a reporter of Abante, a tabloid paper, and an employee of the public information office of the municipality of Bataan Province in central Luzon.

The gunman left his motorcycle to get near Ledesma who was shot in the chest four times, killing her on the spot. Police said she was waiting for a passenger vehicle in front of her house when she was shot.

In 2013, shots were fired in her house by unidentified gunmen, but she was not hurt.

Ledesma was the president of a homeowners association in the village where she was staying with 200 other residents.

She led homeowners who sought ownership of their land through a government agency, the National Housing Authority.

The land is being claimed by another private owner identified as Leonardo David.

The slain journalist is survived by her husband and an 18-year old daughter, a student at the premier University of the Philippines in southern Luzon.

She was the 172nd journalist killed since 1986, after the ouster of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, an era believed to usher democracy in the Philippines after 20 years of Martial law rule.

Three journalists in Mindanao were killed before year end,

The rampant killing of journalists who criticised wrongdoings of elected and appointed government officials, including erring rich people should be considered a national catastrophe, said international rights and watchdogs.

Reporters Without Borders and the European Union delegation have condemned political killing of hard-hitting journalists in the Philippines.

They urged President Aquino to put an end to political killings that “threaten civil liberties”.

What has been happening is “a war on the media,” said Carlos Conde, Manila-based researcher of New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Government officials have “downplayed” the impact of the country’s culture of impunity, said Conde.

What has been happening is “alarming”, admitted Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Former broadcast journalist Sen. Loren Legarda blamed “vindictive politics” fir the killing of journalists.

“We are very cognisant of the role of media in a democracy so we shouldn’t kill their role, It’s really restating to see these media killings happening and certainly, we condemn them,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

The press freedom index of the Reporters Without Borders ranked the Philippines 140th of 179 countries worldwide.

The European Parliament passed in 2010 a resolution urging the Philippines to end extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture, and bring to court those who are responsible for them.