Batangueña journalist Melinda Magsino, 41




BATANGAS CITY–Friends, relatives and colleagues in the Philippines and overseas took to social media to express their grief for former Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent Melinda “Mei” Magsino, who was shot to death by an unidentified group of assailants in Purok 2, Barangay Balagtas just after noontime yesterday.

Slain Batanguena journalist Melinda Magsino (photo taken from her Facebook account)

Slain Batanguena journalist Melinda Magsino (photo taken from her Facebook account)

Bong Macalalad, a blogger and friend of the 41-year-old Magsino, recalled how they used to laugh off the death threats she had been receiving when they last met at a former congressman’s birthday party. Hours before Magsino’s death, they were also talking about her online bashers on Facebook.

Then all of a sudden, Macalalad said, the bad news –that which the mercenaries long “sent to liquidate the two of us succeeded at maiming you forever.”

“But I promise that you did not die in vain,” Macalalad said in his FB post on the day Magsino was murdered while walking at a narrow street heading towards her apartment in Brgy. Balagtas.

“Those criminals can kill my friend Mei Magsino’s mortal body but not her cause to bring down two political dynasties in Batangas (Batangas City and Bauan municipality),” the blogger said.

Noli Atienza, one of the leaders of Batangas City’s Reject RPT20 movement, also sent his condoling messages for Magsino, whom he admitted to have had differences in the past but admired for her courage as a Batangueña.

Hindi man naging iisa ang ating mga paniniwala at paraan sa paghanap ng katotohanan, nanatili ang aking paghanga sa iyong katapangan. Isa kang tunay na Batangueña. Ang pagmamahal mo sa ating bayan, pagmimithi ng katarungan para sa taumbayan at kahandaang mag-alay ng buhay ay magiging mabuting huwaran para sa ating mga kababayan,” Atienza said in his post at the Reject RPT20 group’s page.

Lipa-based broadcast journalist Larry Karangalan, meanwhile, considers Magsino a “great loss,” especially since the latter had also been actively involved in posting exposes about government corruption in Karangalan’s page KKK.

Her death also raises more concerns about journalist’s safety in the Philippines.

Ito ang mahirap sa mga kagaya namin na nakikipaglaban sa ngalan ng katwiran at makatotohanang pagbabalita. Walang sapat na proteksyon galing sa gobyerno,” Karangalan said.

Executive Director Ariel Sebelino of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), the country’s respected association of national and community news publications, was also saddened by the loss of Magsino.

“Rest in Peace, Mei Magsino. Thanks for the friendship. And for the short time you lived in our house, we missed your tuna omelette almost every morning,” Sebelino said in his FB post.

Apart from her stint with the Philippine Daily Inquirer as Batangas correspondent, Magsino was former editor-in-chief of Pahayagang Balikas, then published by the environmental non-government organization Pusod, Inc. For Pahayagang Balikas, Magsino had led the paper to winning an award (Best in Science and Environmental Reporting) at the PPI’s old Community Journalism Awards (now the Civic Journalism Awards). She then went on to form an online news organization called the Southern Luzon Inquirer

Before she died, Magsino’s Facebook account showed that she was doing home-based writing work to promote a chiropractor product.

The 25-year-old Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, whom Magsino was a former contributor and fellow, posted a mini-tribute to the slain ex-journalist in its blog.

In February 2007, Magsino wrote an article for PCIJ about the late Batangas Governor Armando Sanchez, then an alleged  jueteng lord in the province (found south of Manila).

Two years before, Magsino was also a subject of the PCIJ’s story titled “Reporting Under the Gun” that detailed how she was forced to flee Batangas after receiving a tip from police sources that two prisoners were released and were given specific orders to kill her.

Members of the Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) also expressed grief for their former fellow Magsino.

“So upset! May the government of the Philippines find a way to end journalists murder and impunity,” says SEAPA Program Manager Wisnu Hanggoro.

There were also some who offered poems and songs to condole Magsino’s death. Others changed their profile picture to black, while others posted a picture of a Philippine flag under half mast to express their grief. Some overseas Batangueños who also knew her only in FB offered their condolences as well and posted memes with her picture as background crying for justice.

Supt. Manuel Castillo, Batangas City’s police chief, was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as saying that Magsino had “many enemies” in the past and that before her death she had been “hitting politicians below the belt.” But the police said they were also investigating love angle as motive behind her killing.

A day before she was murdered, Magsino even took to Facebook the reported threats, claiming that she had been harassed by several accounts with the same IP (internet protocol) addresses, which she later discovered belonging to that of a Bauan councilor. Aside from threatening messages, the post which also contained memes with that of a male genitalia designed to humiliate her, has since been deleted from her account.

Magsino was the first journalist killed in Batangas since Arnnel Manalo, then 42 years old, in 2004. Manalo, from Bauan, was a correspondent for the Manila-headquartered broadcast company dzRH and for the leading Filipino tabloid Bulgar, as well as reporter for the Batangas newspaper Veritas.

A case report on Manalo documented by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) wrote that Manalo, on August 5, 2004, was on his way home aboard his jeep when he was attacked along the national highway in Barangay (village) Manghinaw, according to then Bauan Police Chief Col. Gaudencio Masangkay.

“Masangkay said Manalo had just taken his children to school and was with his brother Apollo when two motorcycle-riding men stopped on the driver’s side of the jeep and the back-rider shot Manalo twice—in the left side of the face and neck. The police found two .45 cal. shells inside Manalo’s vehicle. He was dead on arrival at the Bauan Doctors Hospital,” the CMFR case report wrote. Masangkay, at that time, thought that Manalo was killed in relation to his work. 

CMFR’s case study report on Manalo, part of its database of Filipino journalists killed, also showed that the case surrounding his death was dismissed by Branch 7 of the Batangas City Regional Trial Court.

On social media, Magsino is said to be a critic of local authorities. She wrote herself, in a second Facebook account, that she’s grateful for  having a second Facebook account given that some are trying to hack her original Facebook account allegedly by “politicians who get hurt with the truth I’m posting about…. I got this second account to continue what I’ve been doing.”

Although, local police are still investigating the motives for the former journalist’s slaying. A blotter report shared by local newspaper publisher Dhess Aclan wrote that at 12:19 p.m., Magsino wa sshot to death by unidentified suyspects who were on board a black-and-white Honda RS motorcycle that carried no plate number and that fled towards an unknown direction.

Magsino is the second journalist killed this year, and the 173rd slain journalist –either current or former at the time of the killing– since April 24, 1986. The spate of killings onto journalists, whether the reasons are media-related or not, had made the Philippines one of the most dangerous places for journalists. 

Magsino’s remains now lie on her uncle’s residence in Villa Magdalena Subdivision, Barangay San Antonio, San Pascual, Batangas.


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