May 20, 1966: Ermin Garcia was murdered
By Ermin Garcia Jr.
MANY may no longer remember that 52 years ago today, May 20, 1966, my father, Ermin E. Garcia (EEG), our founding editor-publisher, was shot and killed in our editorial office here in Dagupan City by then Lingayen Councilor Martin Soriano.
His bloody death grabbed the headlines of Manila dailies for days and accounts of his case were reported in front pages for almost a month. In those days, nobody kills a journalist. So to hear of a politician going to the editorial office to kill an editor-publisher was totally unheard of.
Within 3 months, the Quezon City Council honored his press martyrdom by renaming a street in Cubao District as “Ermin E. Garcia St.”
Below are two news accounts on EEG’s murder for easier recall of his passing.
The Saturday Chronicle, May 21, 1966
EDITOR SLAIN IN COLD BLOOD
Dagupan City, May 20 — Ermin Garcia, Editor of the Sunday Punch was murdered today by one of two armed men who broke into his office.
An elective official, reportedly, was involved in the killing.
Garcia suffered gunshot wounds in the chest and in the abdomen. He died at the Provincial Hospital at 10:47 tonight following an operation.
In an ante-mortem statement, Garcia was said to have described the man who had shot him. The description of the gunman reportedly fit that of the official involved.
The shooting came after Garcia and a reporter of his paper, Rodolfo Toledo, had been warned by telephone not to publish the story exposing an alleged money order racket here.
Toledo told PNS the story was to have come out in the next issue of the provincial paper.
When Garcia and Toledo demurred, the people involved in the racket went gunning for them.
At 2 p.m. today, a taxicab bearing four men stopped in front of the Mendoza Printing Press where the Sunday Punch was being published. Its four passengers alighted and inquired from the press owner for Garcia and Toledo.
Told that the two newsmen were not there, the four men reportedly boarded the taxicab again and proceeded to the Sunday Punch office some 100 meters away.
Two of the passengers went up to the office while the other two stayed in the taxicab.
Garcia who met the two strangers told them to go home “because you are drunk.”
Three shots suddenly rang out. Garcia slumped to the floor. The assailants then rushed downstairs.
PUNCH EDITOR LAID TO REST
Grieving thousands paid their last respects to Ermin Garcia, martyred editor-publisher of the Sunday Punch, as he was finally laid to rest Tuesday, at the little cemetery of San Fabian, his birthplace.
As the Philippine Constabulary band played the soft strains of “Nearer My God To Thee” the murdered crusader’s casket was gently laid to rest at the family burial plot, beside the graves of his youngest daughter, Karina, and his mother, Josefa Erfe-Mejia Garcia.
Ermin Garcia was gunned down in the afternoon of May 20 at his Sunday Punch office by two persons, during a heavy downpour.
Mike Soques rushed the wounded Garcia to the Pangasinan General Hospital where he was given prompt medical attention. He was operated on by a battery of physicians, most of whom were his close friends.
The gallant efforts of doctors went futile, as he finally expired four hours later, at exactly 10:47 P.M. His wife, children and close family relatives were at his bedside when he died.
He is survived by his wife, Paulita Fernandez-Garcia, son Ermin, Jr., and daughters Josie, Charisse and Frieda. He had previously edited the Pioneer Herald, the Counterpoint and Freedom magazines and was a one-time Rotary Scholar at the Columbia University School of Journalism in the U.S.A.
Ermin Garcia was the first President of the Federation of Provincial Press Clubs of the Philippines and a member of the Philippine delegation to the Afro-Asian Journalists’ Conferences, held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1964.
As President of the Dagupan City Rotary Club up to his death, he was mainly responsible for the program “STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS” which won the Rotary International “PAUL HARRIS AWARD” for the most outstanding project of the year.
Necrological rites were held for the slain crusading newspaperman last Saturday, at the Pangasinan Medical Society building.
Among the orators were: Press Secretary Jose Aspiras, Manila Times publisher Joaquin “Chino” Roces, Governor Francisco Duque, Mayor Liberato Reyna, Past NPC President Nereo Andolong, present NPC President Tirso Rodriguez, Cong. Aguedo Agbayani, Rotary Governor Jose Barredo, NPC Vice-President Stephen Sergio, Philippine Press Institute director Johnny Mercado, Dr. Blas Rayos, Sr., Romulo Villamil of the Sunday Punch, Dagupan Rotary Acting President Renan Santos, Bank Executive Romeo Alegria. YPLC President Rosalynda de Venecia, Rotary Ann President Ruby Concepcion de Guzman, Jaycee President Gabriel Zabala, Boy Scout Executive Candido Guadiz, Federated PTA President Victorino Daroya, Manila Times columnist Maximo Soliven, and Rev. Fr. Guido Tiong.
Ermin Garcia, Jr. the slain editor’s only son, delivered the response in behalf of the family.
- The Sunday Punch, May 29, 1966
“ERMIN GARCIA was a symbol of what every newspaperman should aspire to be. Ermin could have come to Manila, as many journalists and writers of promise do, and made his mark in the metropolitan press. But he felt that his vocation lay a home, and it was to make happier and better the community in which he lived. And so he started the Sunday Punch, a weekly newspaper that never failed to live up to its name.”
—MAX SOLIVEN, The Sunday Times, May 22, 1966
“FOR ERMIN GARCIA, Editor and Publisher of Dagupan City’s Sunday Punch, we can gauge a very great respect among the newspaper community. He was a crusader, one of a vanishing breed. He was one of the few provincial newsmen who truly had the esteem of the Manila press. He belonged to that group of press elders whom cub reporters look up to. He had a fighting heart and he kept proving it.”
—WILLIE NG, The Manila Bulletin, May 22, 1966
“GARCIA was a Member of the Philippine Delegation to the Afro-Asian Press Conference in Bandung, Indonesia. He was a Director of the Philippine Press Institute. Garcia, a veteran newspaperman, was Founding President of the Federation of Provincial Press Clubs of the Philippines.”
—The Manila Times, May 21, 1966
* * * * *
So what happened to the case and The PUNCH?
Councilor Rudy Soriano surrendered to the police three days after President Marcos issued a shoot-to-kill order when he went into hiding.
The case was tried in court for over a year. Soriano was eventually convicted and sentenced to 21 years imprisonment. However, he was granted full pardon by Marcos after 5 years on the representation reportedly of then Sec. Jake Clave, a friend of the Soriano family. Thereafter, Soriano was reportedly given employment at the Bureau of Customs. He died in the late 90s.
Soriano’s two accomplices, who served lesser jail sentences, died before him. One was later killed in a shootout, another from a lingering illness.
Meanwhile, it was my uncle, the late Gerardo E. Garcia, a PUNCH columnist at the time, who quickly took over as editor. Executive Editor Bayardo Estrada, News Editor Rod Rivera and Advertising Manager Proc Peña kept the wheels grinding.
I joined the PUNCH in 1968 right after I received my college diploma from Ateneo de Manila University, with no background on journalism except being exposed to what my father did. I credit my uncle for teaching me the ropes about writing through the years.
(Here’s the link to the book authored by the late Arsenio Jesena Jr. entitled “Ermin and Karina”. Karina was our youngest sibling who drowned in Dagupan beach and whose death had seriously affected my father.)
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