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Unidentified men fire at provincial media offices

(CMFR/IFEX) - On 17 June 2009, two unidentified gunmen riding on a motorcycle fired at the building where Bangued-based media offices are housed. Bangued is the capital of Abra, a province approximately 400 km northeast of Manila.

Police, however, told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) that they have yet to establish if the shooting was aimed at the Catholic-run community weekly newspaper "Abra Today", along with affliates dzPA and dwWM radio stations which have offices at the St. Arnold Janssen Communication Center. A law firm and a non-government organization, among others, also have offices in the same building.

In a phone interview, Major Adonis Guzman, Bangued chief of police, said witnesses heard two gunshots at around 9:30 p.m. (local time). Guzman said a security guard who saw the shooting told them the first shot was fired near the Divine College around 30 meters from the St. Arnold Janssen Communication Center.

The second shot, Guzman said, hit the steel gate of the basement in the building. The basement houses the building's generator and some cars among others. The "Abra Today" office is located on the second floor, above the basement.

Fr. Carmelo Gonzales, who oversees the media organizations, said the incident happened "maybe to scare us in the media." Gonzales told CMFR in a phone interview that the most immediate link he can see was the "Abra Today" news article and editorial about corruption in a local electric cooperative, which they also suspect caused the attack on "Abra Today" news editor Marjorie Bandayrel-Trinidad.

Unidentified gunmen had earlier fired at her family's house. Trinidad and her family were unhurt in the 14 May 2009 attack.

Guzman said police recovered a slug in the premises of the building. But the slug was too deformed to indicate what caliber it was.

"I don't know what to do now," Trinidad told CMFR in a phone interview. She said she had not received any threats before the recent attack and was unsure if the shooting incident was linked to the earlier one.

Gonzales said he was pleased that local government officials had declared their willingness to assist in the speedy resolution of the case. "Kung saka-sakali (If by any chance), this will bring peace to Abra," he said.

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