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Davao City broadcasters receive death threats

(CMFR/IFEX) - Two Davao City-based radio broadcasters have received death threats after reporting on alleged extortion activities involving local government officials. Davao City is approximately 978 km from Manila.

Erin Lumosbog of Radio Philippines Network's DXKT-Radyo Ronda (Roving Radio) Davao and James Pala of DXAM-Radyo Rapido (Rapid Radio) said they received threats on their mobile phones telling them to stop discussing alleged extortion activities by local councilors in the municipality of Santa Cruz, in Davao del Sur, according to a 7 October 2008 report on the Filipino news website reported that one of the threatening messages said, "If you will not stop doing commentaries on the Santa Cruz issue, bullets might force you to stop." Lumosbog tried calling the numbers used to send him the threats but they had been deactivated.

In a phone interview with the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility on 8 October, Lumosbog said the threats came after he discussed on his radio program allegations by a local businessman that some members of municipal council had asked him for P1.2 million (approx. US$ 25,586) in exchange for their approval of his request to quarry.

The businessman was able to raise only P480,000 (approx. US$10,235). His request was denied. The businessman approached the media for help when the councilors allegedly refused to return his P480,000.

Lumosbog continues to discuss the issue in his radio program but said he is taking precautionary measures. "If we let the threats affect us, our radio program will be ruined," he said in Filipino. He explained that he has scaled back his field work and is staying in a "safe house."

"We have been asking the councilors to explain their side," Lumosbog said in Filipino. But he said the councilors seem to be avoiding the media. "When we went to see the councilors who were named, they suddenly disappeared from the session hall," he said.

There is an ongoing investigation into extortion allegations in the municipality. Santa Cruz mayor Joel Ray Lopez told that several businessmen did "(decide) to withdraw their investments [in Santa Cruz] because some councilors were asking for money from them in exchange for some favors."

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