Seares: Broadcaster Rico Osmeña, who survived December 16 gun attack, still in pain, hopes to go back on air, advises ‘documented’ commentary, Lord’s protection, not gun or bodyguard. Palace task force prods police to solve shooting.

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HOW IT HAPPENED. About 1 p.m. of December 16, 2021, just hours before Super Typhoon Odette struck Cebu City: Rico Osmeña, a block-time dyLA radio commentator and stringer of the Manila broadsheet “Daily Tribune,” was riding a modernized jeepney on MJ Cuenco Avenue in Cebu City. He had just come from dyLA radio station at the pier area, where he hosted the commentary program “Karon Sugbo.”

Two men on a motorcycle were trailing Rico’s vehicle and when the Beep slowed down, one of them shot Rico from the left side of the vehicle.. A stray bullet grazed an unidentified woman’s head. The bus driver continued to drive towards Mabolo, where they sought police assistance. Rico was then taken to a hospital.

Rico (his dad Miling, he says, is half-brother of Emilio “Lito” Osmeña and John “Sonny” Osmeña) became the most recent addition to a list of Cebu journalists who were victims of violence or harassment (see list compiled by Cebu Citizens-Press Council [CCPC] and Cebu Journalism & Journalists [CJJ] Magazine]).

Months earlier, on July 22, 2021, another block-time broadcaster, Reynante “Rey” Cortes, was attacked by motorcycle-riding assailants while he was standing outside dyRB’s radio station where he hosted a political news program .

The difference in the two incidents involving radio broadcasters: Rico survived, one of the few who did in such kind of an attack. Cortes was dead on arrival at the Cebu City Medical Center. Cortes could no longer talk about it while Rico could and did, with Media’s Public. Seven post-incident takeaways on the shooting, which has gone under-reported after the flurry of initial headlines:

[1] Who probably did it. Rico talks about smugglers of “carrots/veggies” who “ got angry at me.” He says he had an interview with Benguet farmers.

Days before the attack, a news report said Rico told his radio audience that he received death threats “from someone he did not identify” and reported it to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

NUJP or National Union of Journalists of the Philippines noted that the shooting happened close to the May elections, warning that “it sets a precedent for what awaits other journalists” during the election season.

Rico’s smugglers’ theory tends to shoot down the politics angle.

[2] Progress of police probe. Rico concedes the slow progress in the police investigation, which still has to come up with a suspect.

Rico says he learned the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) followed up developments on the case with the Waterfront police.

PTFoMS was created by President Duterte in 2016 who at the time declared that “all forms of political violence and abuses of power, whether by agents or elements of the State, or of non-state forces against the Fourth Estate must stop.”

It was not known if the police created a special task force on Osmeña’s case, which it routinely does if the victim of violence is a news media person.

[3] Rico’s pain. While “I am alive,” he says, he is “suffering much, particularly [in] the left arm,” where he feels “like dead.” His left lung, he says, had “a bullet stringer.” He doesn’t explain.

He says he had “two bullet wounds, from .45 caliber.” A bullet entered his neck and a part of his back through a wound in the shoulder..

He will need six months to one year therapy, which can be “very expensive.” He says he gets or will get “small amounts from Cebu NewsCoop, the KB, friends and family members.”

[4] Spared from Odette. He says he was lucky he didn’t experience the super-typhoon as he had “crucial operations” and put him to sleep “for days.”

He doesn’t say if his house or apartment was damaged by the typhoon or any of his family members was infected by Covid.

[5] No safehouse. They couldn’t find a safe-house. His wife and kids, Rico says, stayed with him in the hospital for two weeks. (He has three children: Isabelo Rico, a physical therapy student; Demarie, a third-year psychology major; and Phiabel, a fourth-grader.)

He says the police offered him protection but he turned it down, seeing “no need” and expecting instead the “additional expenses.”

[6] Gun, bodyguard. Asked if he’ll advise his colleagues, besides praying for safety, to have a bodyguard or carry a gun. Rico says, Trust the Lord for protection. “If it’s your time, that’s it.”

What could help is to base one’s commentary on “documented” facts, he says. Which goes with the pitch of media experts that adhering to values of journalism will deter violence against media, often set off as reprisal for scurrilous and stinging criticisms by broadcasters.

[7] Would he resume broadcasting? Maybe he’ll be “back next week.” At the same time though, he says it will “depend on doctors’ advice.”

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