Regional military unit denies threatening radio broadcaster

By CMFR PHILIPPINES

A RADIO broadcaster from Davao City allegedly received a message through his mobile phone last 16 March 2009 threatening him for his supposedly biased reporting. The radio broadcaster believes the threat came from the military. The spokesman of the regional military unit has denied the allegation.

News director Elgin Damasco of dxDC-Radio Mindanao Network in Davao City said he received the message 15 minutes towards the end of his daily program “Tinuod nga Balita (The Real News)” which runs from 5 to 6 in the morning. Davao City is approximately 946 kilometers south of Manila.

Damasco told CMFR in a phone interview he “believes that the military was behind the death threat” since most of his exposés are about military abuses in Davao. A military spokesman however refuted the allegation.

Damasco linked the threat to his interview with Leoncio Pitao, aka Commander Parago, a local leader of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, a leading communist party of the Philippines. Damasco interviewed Parago in Paquibato District, three days after the latter’s daughter, 20-year old elementary teacher Rebelyn, was abducted, raped, and killed in Carmen, Davao del Norte.

Apart from this, Damasco had also been tackling other issues such as the alleged mauling of several residents of Paquibato District in Davao City by elements of the 3rd Special Forces under the 1003rd Infantry Battalion.

Major Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman of the Eastern Mindanao Command, denied that the threat came from the military. He even described Damasco as a fair reporter. “During our interviews, he was letting us talk and letting the other side talk also. He was like an arbiter,” he told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR).

The message from an unknown sender (0905-507-5929) read: “Ka Damasco, mula ng kayong 3 ay naging spokesman ng NPA, matagumpay kayong nanalo sa propaganda laban sa AFP, dahil dyan may reward kayong 3 (Ka Damasco, since the three of you became spokespersons of the New People’s Army, the Armed Forces of the Philippines lost in the propaganda battle and because of that, a reward awaits the three of you).”

Damasco said the other two mentioned in the message may have been co-workers station manager Dodong Solis and senior anchor Alex Roldan. He said they have been noted for being critical of the military when reporting on human rights issues.

After he read the message, Damasco said he made a commentary over the air denying the allegation. Another message came after that, which said: “Matapang ka ha… (So you’re really tough…)”

CMFR tried to call the mobile phone number where the message came from but the number was inaccessible.

After Damasco interviewed Parago, suspicious looking men have been seen in the vicinity of the house of Damasco, which is also near the residence of Solis. Neighbors said the men were asking them about the whereabouts of Damasco and Solis.

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