'Not just another statistic': Former Inquirer correspondent killed

(CNN Philippines) — Melinda Magsino, a former correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, refused to be another statistic. But on Monday (April 13) she got into the list of murdered journalists in the Philippines.

Magsino was on her way to buy an electric fan and was not far from her apartment when a male gunman approached and shot her at close range in broad daylight, the Inquirer reported.

Police said the gunman then escaped onboard a black-and-white Honda motorcycle driven by an accomplice.

‘Hard-hitting’

News of her death, which was posted by journalist Ed Lingao, showed a girl sitting in what seems to be a salon. She was all made up, her hair curled and colored, and she was smiling.

Former PCIJ contributor and former Inquirer correspondent Mei Magsino was shot dead at noon today. Rest in peace, Mei...

Posted by Ed Lingao on Monday, April 13, 2015

The photo goes against the image of what a hard-hitting journalist should look like.

But in her former line of work, the 41-year-old investigative journalist had a reputation for being tough and unafraid to report about corruptions involving powerful politicians.

In 2005, Magsino reported to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines that she had been receiving threats.

This was after she reported on an alleged corruption issue involving then-Batangas Gov. Armando Sanchez.

That year, Magsino quit from the Inquirer and went into hiding after a source told her that two convicted murderers had been released from the provincial jail with orders to kill her.

Just nine months married at that time at the age of 30, the journalist told the American Journalism Review that she distanced herself from her husband and in-laws to ensure their safety.

She fled into the night bringing only some clothes, an ATM card, some cash and a folder of documents and moved around different safe houses.

With her safety at risk, Magsino sank into paranoia and lost weight. She even lined up empty bottles in front of the door so any intruder would trip on them and the noise would warn her.

The ordeal also put her marriage in turmoil, with her husband suggesting that they file for annulment.

Journalist at heart

On her Facebook account, Magsino wrote that she was now working as the SEO specialist of a clinic focusing on chiropractic care.

A practicing vegetarian, her posts showed her interests in organic farming and traveling.

But though no longer actively practicing journalism, Magsino could never really leave the profession.

In 2010, she served as the publisher, editor-in-chief, and reporter of the now-defunct provincial paper Southern Luzon Inquirer.

She also continued to call out alleged corruptions of local politicians in the Facebook group “Taga Bauan, Batangas Ka Kung…” She was one of group's administrators.

The group is described as a venue for “residents of Bauan who've had enough of the town's rampant corruption, violence, and the people's apathy” to make a stand.

Days before her death, it was posted in the group that Magsino kept receiving obscene messages.

On doing an IP check, the group traced the messages to a councilor in Bauan, Batangas.

taga_bauan_batangas_ka_kung_facebook.png Hours after she was killed, Mei Magsino made this post on the Facebook group "Taga bauan, Batangas ka kung..."

Her final post in the group was on the definition of "dolor" which means a state of great sorrow or distress.

She posted: "Sa ibang definition, ang ibig sabihin ng Dolor ay mental pain. Wala pa kong nakikitang reference na positive ang meaning ng Dolor. Kahit sa aking bayang sinilangan, mula ng mapunta sa mayor's office ang mga Dolor, puro parusa at kalbaryo ang dala nila. Sa 2016, ang magiging susunod na definition ng Dolor ay walang iba kundi karma!"

More than two hours later, her friend broke the news of her death on the comment section of the post.

'Cycle of impunity'

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Philippines is one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist.

Under the Aquino administration, a total of 32 journalists were killed, according to the PCIJ.

The CPJ said the cycle of impunity in media murders in the country can only be broken if the current administration “shows stronger resolve in prosecuting cases.”

In a tribute to Magsino, Inquirer publisher Raul Pangalangan said the courage of journalists like Mei is needed “to flourish and sustain our fragile democracy.”

“It falls upon us to make sure that indeed her death doesn’t become just another statistic.”

Last minutes

Benjie Reyes, Magsino's partner for the past three years, described the former journalist as courageous and as someone who always stood up against corruption.

"She always told me: 'Mahal, I miss being a journalist. I've been away too long. I think I'm getting rusty,'" Reyes said.

In an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines, Reyes also recalled the moments before Magsino's death.

"Five minutes after she gave me her last kiss and exited that gate, a neighbor came up to me and said: 'Doc, si Mei natapilok, nadapa yata,'" he said.

Reyes rushed to his partner and it was then that he realized the worst possible scenario.

"I took her pulse. There was none."

CNN Philippines' Ivy Saunar and Alyosha Robillos contributed to this report.