RADIO dySS news director Kit Matus-Cortes turned 52 on Thursday, July 22, 2021; unbeknownst to the veteran broadcast journalist, her children had a plan to throw a surprise birthday for her in the evening.
However, the birthday bash never happened after she learned that her husband Reynante Cortes, known in the radio airwaves as Rey Cortes, had died after he was shot outside the station of radio dyRB where he had just wrapped up an episode of his commentary program, “Engkwentro (Encounter).”
Kit, one of the pioneers of radio dySS since 1997, is asking authorities for a gift that could elude her for months or years: bringing her husband’s killers to justice.
She told SunStar Superbalita that her family had received threats.
“Daghan kaayo mig hulga sa miaging tuig pa. Kami daw tibuok pamilya patyon. Naay mga trolls sa social media. Ako, akong mga anak makadawat sab (We had so many threats since last year. Our whole family would be killed. There were trolls on social media. Me, my kids got threats, too),” she said.
Rey Cortes, a radio blocktimer who paid for airtime, had survived an armed attack in June 2003. He was walking to his car outside the Bureau of Customs in Cebu City when an unidentified gunman shot him, hitting him in the right thigh. He was a blocktimer at Bantay Radyo at the time.
Eighteen years later, Cortes, 47, was again shot when he was about to hop in his vehicle parked outside the building that houses dyRB station on N. Bacalso Ave. in Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City at 8:50 a.m. Thursday. He was rushed to the Cebu City Medical Center, where he later died.
Investigators are looking at the possibility that the victim was shot by a sniper, or he was shot from afar as no one saw the gunman.
The Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) has formed a Special Investigation Task Group (SITG), which is composed of the Mambaling Police Station, the CCPO Investigation Section, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group 7 and the Crime Laboratory.
CCPO Deputy Director for Operation Wilbert Parilla said they formed the SITG because they consider the victim a media personality.
Cortes is one of the 15 persons who were killed in Cebu City in July.
Parilla promised to solve the radio blocktimer’s murder.
Mambaling Police Station Chief Dindo Alaras said they will check all the security cameras of the establishments near the crime scene to identify the gunman.
Cebu City Acting Mayor Michael Rama wants the solution to the murder “quick and fast,” so the “confidence” of the people will “continue to be up.”
He expects the CCPO to increase police visibility in the city and prevent future shooting incidents.
Rama wants City Councilor Phillip Zafra, being the chairman of the peace and order committee, to be hands on in the case.
The Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC), through its executive director Pachico Seares, issued a statement on Cortes’ murder, saying “whether he was a regular staff member or block-timer of dyRB does not change this fact: He was a media practitioner whose killers should be arrested and prosecuted.”
CCPC said Cortes’ murder, under the Philippine National Police’s Standard Operating Procedure 2012-006 dated Nov. 12, 2012, was deemed a “heinous and sensational crime.” The case requires an investigation by an SITG. Media practitioners are included in the same category as vice governors, Provincial Board members, mayors, vice mayors, councilors, barangay captains and councilors, judges, prosecutors and lawyers, and militants.
“Media workers are not special people and do not expect special treatment. The local community of journalists will be content with a diligent crime investigation that, sadly, people had not seen applied to similar cases of violence against media workers and other high profile personalities. An SITG inquiry may help cut down public skepticism,” CCPC said.
The group is worried about how a “new unsolved murder of a media worker can intensify the state of impunity that different sectors of the society fear and condemn,” given that there have been a total of 233 attacks and threats against media since 2016, as of May 1, 2021.
“If a media worker’s life could be easily snuffed out, violence could replace democracy’s regular means of discourse,” CCPC said.
It added: “The Cortes murder appears to be work-related but even if it were not, it was still a disruption of community values should it go unpunished.”
The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP)-Cebu condemned Cortes’ murder, and it wants justice for the radio blocktimer’s death.
Kit welcomed the CCPO’s creation of the SITG.
Cortes’ bodyguard and driver Felix Booc was inside the vehicle when he heard gunfire. He later saw his employer fall.
Booc did not notice any car or motorcycle that sped off after Cortes was hit.
Cortes was shot in the chest. The bullet went through his left arm.
City Councilor David Tumulak, whose driver brought Cortes to the hospital, said he and Cortes still met at the radio station because of the close schedule of their programs.
Cortes was still alive when he was rushed to the CCMC. He was declared dead at 9:55 a.m.
Booc told investigators that Cortes had enemies because of his stinging radio commentaries, a typical style of some radio blocktimers.
Alaras said they will look into the personalities who were subjects of Cortes in his radio commentaries. (With WBS, JJL, GPL)