[Statement] Justice for Rex Cornelio, 16th journalist slain under Duterte pic.twitter.com/AUO1Bi6dqt
— NUJP (@nujp) May 6, 2020
“His ultimate passion was for good governance and his advocacy was to help save the environment. He was a highly principled man who sought refuge in his faith.”
By RITCHE T. SALGADO
MANILA — Just two days after the world commemorated the World Press Freedom Day and on the same day that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) silenced one of the country’s biggest media network, ABS-CBN, the City of Gentle people was shaken by the killing of one of the Dumagueteños’ favorite voices on FM radio, Cornelio Pepino, or Rex Cornelio as he was widely known.
Cornelio, 48, was shot by a riding-in-tandem near his residence in Villa Amada, Daro, Dumaguete City at around 8:30 pm of May 5. He was on his way home with his wife after airing his program. Cornelio is survived by his wife Colleen and two children.
The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) believes that Cornelio’s death may be related to his work and as such he would be the 16th journalist killed under the Duterte presidency, and 186th since 1986.
In Negros Island and in Dumaguete, he is the third media practitioner killed since 2018. NUJP-Dumaguete Chapter Chairman Edmond Sestoso was killed on April 30, 2018, and late last year, broadcaster Dindo Generoso was shot dead on his way to work. Sestoso’s case is yet to be resolved, while three suspects, including two police officers. were arrested for the killing of Generoso.
dyMD Energy FM station manager Florence Baesa said that Cornelio “spent many years covering the issues that many reporters were fearful to do.”
“His ultimate passion was for good governance and his advocacy was to help save the environment. He was a highly principled man who sought refuge in his faith,” Baesa said.
Negros Oriental First District Representative, Jocelyn Sy-Limkaichong, raised her concern on the spate of killings in the province.
“We should be alarmed, we should be enraged, we should not allow this to happen and demand that the sacrifice of our vanguards would not be wasted, that they would find justice,” she said in a statement.
Cornelio is one of the pioneer staffs of the city’s youngest FM station, dyMD Energy FM and hosts a show entitled, “Pukpukin Mo Baby,” which brings to the fore major issues affecting the city, province, and the country, giving listeners an avenue to voice out their opinion on these issues.
He is a known critic of the governor and other local leaders. In fact in 2017, Judge Arlene Catherine Dato of the Regional Trial Court Branch 39 acquitted Cornelio from libel cases filed by Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo. The accusation stemmed from Cornelio’s claim, which he aired in his November 2014 programs, that the governor failed to act on the request of residents of Sta. Catalina to stop the illegal gold mining in the area, that the governor is involved in the overpricing of government projects and in the misuse of the intelligence fund of the province, among others. The judge however ruled in favor of Cornelio, saying that he was being truthful as he was able to present documents that would prove his statements against the governor.
“In the service of the people of Negros Oriental, he risked his life, his dignity, his credibility as he had to survive malicious attacks from powerful people. He survived that and came out stronger and more determined to use his craft to help bring sanity in our province,” said Limkaichong.
Marchel Espina, NUJP-Bacolod chairperson, called on the authorities to swiftly investigate the killing.