Cuesta family tries hard to cope with journalist-father’s murder


Written by Karen Papellero
Monday, 29 September 2008
var sburl8220 = window.location.href; var sbtitle8220 = document.title;var sbtitle8220=encodeURIComponent(“Cuesta family tries hard to cope with journalist-father’s murder”); var sburl8220=decodeURI(“http://zumel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=536”); sburl8220=sburl8220.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl8220=encodeURIComponent(sburl8220);He loved so much his work as a journalist. He could not imagine himself doing any other job. One can say he died doing what he loved the most.”

This was how Gloria Cuesta described her husband, Dennis Cuesta, the Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) broadcaster who was shot last Aug. 4 in General Santos City by motorcycle-riding assassins near a commercial complex. He died after five days in coma.

Mrs. Cuesta shared that as early as June of this year, Dennis has already received threats and even admitted that he is “going against a big fish” in the issues that he tackled in his program. She said he did not elaborate who the “big fish” is.

Up until his death, he was program director of DXMD-RMN General Santos and hosted the station’s morning news and commentary program, Straight to the Point. The post in the General Santos station was a promotion given to him this year. He was formerly a reporter and field correspondent at the RMN station in Davao City.

“I told him to resign from the job or at least to transfer to another area because I was really concerned for his safety. But he said that he could not do any other job except that of a journalist,” Mrs. Cuesta said.

She also revealed that when Dennis realized that the threats were getting serious – unidentified men “tailing” him from work to his house and threatening messages being sent to his cellphone – he had to change boarding houses at least twice.

The Cuestas’ home is in Digos, Davao del Sur. Dennis rented a room in General Santos and had to go home to his family every weekend.

But he never asked any help from his colleagues regarding the threats to his security. Mrs. Cuesta said that Dennis did not want to bother anyone with his troubles. She does not know of any documentation or record of the threats her husband received.

She never realized the importance of keeping track of the said threats up until that fateful afternoon when she received a phone call from a friend informing her that Dennis was shot and already in coma due to a gunshot wound in the head.

He died Aug. 9, two days after another RMN broadcaster was also shot by motorcycle-riding assassins.

Martin Roxas, 32, based in Roxas, Capiz and a broadcaster for DyVR-RMN was shot just a few kilometers from the radio station in broad daylight last Aug. 7. He died on the spot.

According to the records of the Media Safety Office of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Cuesta’s death brought to 60 the number of journalists killed since 2001, under the Arroyo administration and 96 since 1986.

Cuesta is the fifth journalist killed this year, according to NUJP.

After-shocks

Dennis Cuesta left behind seven children. The youngest, a two-year old girl, still asks Mrs. Cuesta whether Papa is coming home this weekend.

Yet, the family had to contend not only with the loss of a father but also with events brought about by the brutal killing.

Mrs. Cuesta shared that neighbors and friends told her that during the burial of her husband and even a few days after, unknown men were seen near the Cuestas’ home, asking about the family. They were allegedly from General Santos City but did not say why they were there. She immediately requested for protection from the local police due to the incident.

She also had to take time off from her work as a government employee to attend to the legal actions for the case. She had to leave the kids to her parents to attend the preliminary hearings at the Department of Justice (DoJ) office in Manila.

The preliminary hearings at the Justice Department was concluded last Sept. 26. However, the respondents to the case, including Police Inspector Redempto “Boy” Acharon, whom witnesses have pointed to as the alleged gunman in the killing together with one identified by his alias “Jerry”, have neither appeared in the hearings nor submitted counter-affidavits.

General Santos City Mayor Pedro Acharon, Jr. was also summoned to appear in the hearings by the DoJ but did not also respond, according to the office of State Prosecutor Misael Ladaga.

Inspector Redempto Acharon is a close relative of Mayor Acharon. The former has reportedly resigned from the police force after he was identified by the witnesses as a suspect. Presently, his whereabouts are still unknown, though unconfirmed reports said that he is still in General Santos City.

State Prosecutor Misael Ladaga however said that the purpose of the preliminary hearings- to establish probable cause, is not dependent on the counter affidavits of the respondents. His office is now submitting the case for resolution.

Still, the Cuesta family remains hopeful.

“Lisod tinuod ang ikaw mahabilin. Kinahanglan jud namo ang suporta sa uban. Maayo nalang nga gitabangan mi sa iyang mga kauban sa RMN ug uban pang taga-media” (It’s really difficult to be left behind. We really need all the support we can get. It’s a good thing that his colleagues in RMN and also other members of the media have helped us), Mrs Cuesta said.

Currently, Mrs. Cuesta said that she is busy completing the requirements needed to apply for the scholarship program offered by the NUJP for the children of slain journalists.

“Padayon lang gud gihapon. Mao man ang hagit sa kinabuhi” (We must still go on. This is the challenge of life), she said. Bulatlat

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