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Local police chief threatens radio journalist

(CMFR/IFEX) - The Philippine National Police has ordered the temporary relief from duties of a town police chief after his alleged 20 May 2010 harassment of a Manila-based radio broadcaster.

The relief order came after Noel Alamar, a reporter for dzMM Radyo Patrol and the president of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Press Corps, reported that Pola town Chief Inspector Telesforo Domingo and his men threatened to arrest and shoot him on 20 May.

On 21 May, the "Manila Bulletin" quoted spokesman Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina as saying that Domingo "was temporarily relieved to pave the way for an impartial investigation on the case." Pola town is in Oriental Mindoro province, approximately 170 kilometers from Manila.

Domingo allegedly snatched Alamar's company-issued camera and ordered his arrest for "obstruction of justice" after the reporter took footage of the policemen in civilian clothes carrying high-powered firearms around 9:30 p.m. (local time) in front of the house of mayor-elect Leandro "Dodjie" Panganiban Jr. Policemen are prohibited from bearing firearms while not in uniform under the election gun ban, which is effective until 9 June.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported that Alamar and his wife were in Pola to observe the death anniversary of Alamar's mother. During his stay at Pola, Alamar said he received complaints about Domingo's alleged partisan activities in the elections. Alamar informed Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan (Region IV-B) Regional director Chief Supt. Paul Mascariñas and Oriental Mindoro Provincial chief Senior Supt. Sonny Ricablanca of the alleged partisan activities of the local police. Alamar told CMFR he also planned to interview Domingo for his version of the incident.

In an interview with CMFR, Alamar said earlier that day Domingo, who was apparently drunk, went to his house, told him "Sino ka ba (Who are you)?" and then immediately left.

However, Domingo told the Manila-based news site GMANews.TV that the incident was only due to "lack of coordination" between Alamar and the police. Domingo explained that he and his companions were in civilian clothes because they were in a hurry to serve warrants of arrest to the wife of the mayor-elect who was facing several criminal charges.

"We had to act immediately . . . It was already evening. Besides, it was uncomfortable to be in uniform for 24 hours," he told GMANews.TV.

The incident ended only after the Provincial Mobile Group and the incumbent mayor arrived at the scene, Alamar said.

Alamar retrieved his camera from the Pola police station on 21 May. He told CMFR that Domingo had talked to him and apologized for the incident. Alamar said Ricablanca has ordered a thorough investigation and that an investigator has talked to him about the incident. He will wait for the results of the police investigation before filing a complaint, Alamar said.

Journalists and media practitioners have been under attack before and during the election period. On 9 May, some Camiguin-based reporters were harassed and threatened by the provincial governor after they allegedly caught him and his men engaging in vote-buying. On 29 November 2009, 32 journalists and media workers were killed while accompanying a group of people on their way to the provincial office of the Commission on Elections to file the certificate of candidacy of a candidate for governor of the southern Mindanao province of Maguindanao.

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