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Radio broadcaster Elgin Damasco receives threatening phone messages

(CMFR/IFEX) - Radio broadcaster Elgin Damasco of dxDC-Radio Mindanao Network in Davao City received messages on his mobile phone on 16 March 2009, threatening him for his "biased" reporting. The radio broadcaster believes the threat came from the military since most of his exposés are about military abuses in Davao City. A spokesman of the regional military unit has denied the allegation. Davao City is located approximately 950 km from Manila.

Damasco said he received the message about 15 minutes before the end of his daily program "Tinuod nga Balita" ("The Real News"), which runs from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. (local time).

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

After the interview, suspicious looking men were seen in the vicinity of his house, which is also near the residence of Solis. Neighbours said the men were asking them about the whereabouts of Damasco and Solis.

The message sent to Damsaco's phone read: "Damasco, since the three of you became spokespersons of the New People's Army, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has lost the propaganda battle (. . .) your reward awaits the three of you."

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

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

CMFR tried to contact the phone number but the number was inaccessible.

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