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Reporter Dexter Joie Ganibe, cameraman Benedicto Ganelo detained after altercation at police station

(CMFR/IFEX) - A radio reporter and a television cameraman were released on 16 March 2009 after nearly 12 hours of detention in a police station in Batasan Hills, Quezon City. Quezon City is the largest of Metro Manila's cities in population and land area.

DzMM reporter Dexter Joie Ganibe and ABS-CBN 2 cameraman Benedicto Ganelo were detained on 15 March after an alleged physical and verbal altercation with potential news subjects inside Station 6 of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) at around 2 a.m. (local time). DzMM and ABS-CBN 2 are part of the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation.

Police also detained the three persons who allegedly attacked the reporter and cameraman. Jaquiline Maulion, Luche Grace Maulion, and Eddie Masurong were also released after posting bail of P26,000 (approx. US$540) for malicious mischief and two counts of grave coercion.

Charges of unjust vexation against Ganibe and Ganelo are still under investigation.

According to Article 287 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC): "Any other coercions or unjust vexations shall be punished by arresto menor or a fine ranging from 5 pesos (approx. US$ 0.10) to 200 pesos (approx. US$4), or both". "Arresto menor" is a penalty of detention in the local jail or in the house of the offender from one day to 30 days.

Furthermore, Section 5 (a, b) of the RPC stipulates: "A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person when, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense" or "when an offense has just been committed."

Ganibe told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) in a phone interview that the three assailants were filing a complaint against a neighbor over a parking space dispute when he came to the police station looking for stories. Masurong and the Maulion sisters allegedly invoked their right to privacy when they realized Ganibe was a reporter. The three denied intimidating or physically attacking Ganibe.

Police Superintendent Antonio Candido Yarra, station commander of QCPD station 6, said the police on duty prevented an argument from erupting when Ganelo arrived and began taking video footage. This irked the three complainants who supposedly started physically and verbally attacking Ganibe and Ganelo.

Yarra denied that the assault had happened, but admitted that there was a scramble for Ganelo's video camera.

In a 16 March report by the news website GMANews.TV, Ganibe said one of the three complainants even tried to stab him with a ballpoint pen. Ganelo said in the same report that they also destroyed his video camera after they forcibly grabbed it from him. Ganelo also alleged that they took the video tape from his camera.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Metro Manila Radio Reporters Organization denounced the alleged harassment against the ABS-CBN news staff. NUJP also condemned the detaining of "the ABS-CBN personnel who were clearly the victims of these crimes".

In a statement, NUJP said the alleged assailants "could simply have said (they didn't want to talk to the reporters) or clammed up, and requested that police not divulge information, which is their right and one media should respect. That is, unless the case was of public interest."

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