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Columnist threatened with death following articles implicating top government official in corruption

(CMFR/IFEX) - A columnist claims that he received a death threat on 20 September 2007, after writing about a high-ranking election official involved in an anomalous deal on the installation of broadband networks in the country.

Jarius Bondoc, a columnist for the Manila daily "The Philippine Star", said he received the threat following the Senate hearing on the US$329 million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal between the government and China's ZTE Corp, which ended on the evening of 20 September, abs-cbnnews Interactive reported.

The message containing the death threat, which Bondoc received via text message at 10:12 p.m. (local time), read, "You are arrogant. Don't bother taking off your suit. How are the kids? Your wife? Your station will explode! Boom. Hahaha." Bondoc immediately reported the threat to the police.

Bondoc first wrote in his column in August that a certain high-ranking member of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the body tasked with administering elections in the country, had gone to China during the election season to broker the deal with ZTE in exchange for cash and the favors of sex workers. Subsequent reports identified Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos as the official Bondoc to whom was referring. Abalos has denied the allegations.

Bondoc has been monitoring developments in the NBN deal. He criticized the alleged theft of the contract in China right after it was signed. He also discussed the background of ZTE, revealing in his column previous transactions of the company in Ecuador, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Mexico that were also anomalous. Other high-ranking public figures, including cabinet officials and the president's spouse, have been implicated in the controversy.

A Senate investigation is currently being held regarding the matter, which has become a major government scandal.

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