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Kidapawan journalist receives death threat

(CMFR/IFEX) - A Kidapawan-based radio broadcaster received a death threat attached to a funeral wreath on 28 April 2010. Kidapawan City is the capital of North Cotabato, a province approximately 956.14 kilometers from Manila.

Williamor Magbanua, 30, a radio blocktimer at dxND of the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation, and information officer of incumbent Kidapawan City representative Bernardo Piñol Jr., said he found the wreath hanging over the fence of his house at around 5:30 in the morning (local time). Magbanua is also a correspondent for the Manila-based broadsheet "Philippine Daily Inquirer" and for the online news magazine GMANews.TV. A blocktimer is a freelance practitioner who purchases "blocks" of radio time for a program for which he then solicits advertisements. Blocktimers have been accused of being on the payroll of politicians, especially during elections.

Attached to the wreath was a note in the Visayan dialect saying that Magbanua had violated the rules of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) because he was peddling lies which trampled on the rights of women.

The note was signed by a certain Dencio Madrigal, who said he was the spokesperson of the Front 72 Valentin Palamine Command of the New People's Army (NPA) Far South Mindanao. The NPA is the armed group of the CPP. Magbanua, however, said he did not think the wreath and the threat came from the NPA, but from the camp of Piñol's political rival, Nancy Catamco. Catamco immediately denied that it came from her.

The alleged NPA spokesperson said that if Magbanua persisted, he would "face the consequences."

Before receiving the wreath, Magbanua said he had noticed suspicious men following him. On the weekend of 24 April, two unidentified men on a motorcycle, with its headlights off, followed him on his way home from the office of his boss, Rep. Piñol. This happened again the next day.

The night he received the threat, an unidentified man was seen standing under a lamppost outside his house. The man was later picked up by another man on the same motorcycle used to stalk him.

Magbanua thinks the threat is election-related. He told the CMFR that the threat could have come from Catamco. According to Magbanua, Piñol's political rival has been saying that he has been fabricating stories about her.

Magbanua denied that he has demeaned women in his shows. "Never in my shows," he said. He challenged Catamco to listen to the recordings of his show to prove her allegations. "She is creating all those rumors," Magbanua said in Filipino.

He also said in an interview with Malu Manar, chair of the Kidapawan Chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), that "This is not the way the NPA writes their press statements. As a radio reporter who used to write stories about the NPA, I know how the rebels write and send their statements."

Catamco denied Magbanua's accusations in an interview with Manar. According to Catamco, her supporters have heard the radio journalist say disgraceful things against her during the campaign.

Upon receiving the threat, Magbanua immediately went to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Kidapawan and filed a report. Policemen have been assigned to guard his house each day from 2 in the afternoon until dawn.

According to the local police, there are still no leads as to who sent the funeral wreath and the threat. Magbanua has not filed a complaint.


BACKGROUND:

On 30 April, Manar received in her e-mail an open letter from the NPA Front 72 Valentin Palamine Regional Operations Command denying that the threat on Magbanua came from them. The group said: "May we reassure Mr. Magbanua that, as a matter of policy, and as track record shows, the NPA does not send death threats, not even to those who have been found guilty by the Hukumang Bayan (People's Court). The NPA through its Eight Points of Attention strictly follows the rules and regulations on the proper conduct towards civilians, including Mr. Magbanua." The "Open Letter to Williamor Magbanua" dated 29 April was signed by Ka Dencio Madrigal.

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