Philippine policeman suspended after murder of reporter he had argued with

MANILA (AFP) - The police chief of a Philippine town was suspended after a national newspaper reporter who he argued with was murdered, in the latest of a string of media killings, the authorities said on Monday.

Ms Rubylita Garcia, 52, a reporter with a popular tabloid, was shot dead on Sunday in her home about 30km from the nation's capital, Manila, the national police spokesman, Chief Superintendent Reuben Sindac, said.

Supt Sindac told reporters the police chief of Tanza town, which is close to where Ms Garcia lived and worked, was suspended on Monday "so he can not affect the ongoing investigation".

"This is administrative relief because of reports the Tanza police chief figured in an altercation with the victim before the incident," Supt Sindac said. However, Supt Sindac emphasised this did not necessarily mean the local police chief, Superintendent Conrado Villanueva, was a suspect.

The altercation between the pair was allegedly a heated verbal argument at a press conference, according to Antiporda, although the details were not immediately clear.

Ms Garcia had worked for the Remate newspaper for 10 years covering police and local government issues, according to its publisher Benny Antiporda.

"She was a hard-hitting veteran news reporters, always going after perceived corruption and anomalies wherever she was assigned," he told AFP.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) denounced the killing, saying that if Ms Garcia's murder was work-related, it would be the 20th such media killing since President Benigno Aquino took office in 2010.

It said Ms Garcia's murder highlighted Mr Aquino's inability to change a "culture of impunity" in the Philippines, in which powerful figures regularly kill or intimidate their critics without fear of facing justice.

None of the cases since Mr Aquino came to power have been solved, according to the NUJP.

In the worst-ever attack on Philippine media workers, 32 journalists were among 58 people murdered in 2009, allegedly by leaders of a powerful political clan who were trying to stop a rival from running in elections.

Those leaders are on trial, although the case is expected to take many years to complete.

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