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Radio anchor threatened over commentaries

(CMFR/IFEX) - A Cagayan de Oro-based radio broadcaster received threatening SMS (text) messages on 14 and 17 May 2011. Cagayan de Oro City is approximately 786 kilometers south of Manila.

Jun Albino, of Magnum Music and News Radio 99.9 FM, first received a message on his mobile phone at around 6:51 a.m. (local time) on 14 May saying, "Mr. Albino, stop talking about BGKAS if you still want to attend the festival, or we might cut your head off." The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) kept getting a busy tone when it tried to call the mobile number used in sending the threat.

Albino is the general manager of the radio station, for which he also anchors the news and commentary program "Jun Albino Live" aired Monday to Saturday at 6:15 a.m. (local time).

"BGKAS" allegedly referred to Lynard Allan Bigcas, who had been the subject of Albino's commentaries in recent days. Albino had been talking about the alleged smuggling activities of Bigcas. The broadcaster also interviewed Bigcas after the latter's press conference on 13 May.

Albino received another threatening SMS on 17 May at around 7:01 a.m. (local time). The message read: "Albino, you demon. We won't let your abuse pass - ABB." ABB is an acronym used by the Alex Boncayao Brigade, a breakaway group of the New People's Army guerrilla group.

Albino was unsure if the second message was related to the first threat, "I'm not sure as other people may have been riding on the issue (threat mentioning Bigcas)," the broadcaster said.

The "Philippine Daily Inquirer" reported on 15 May that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had seized a number of SUVs (sports utility vehicles) and motorcycles from Bigcas' warehouses in Talakag, Bukidnon and in Cagayan de Oro, including a motorcycle worth US$80,000 which was reportedly stolen from Hollywood writer Skip Woods. Bigcas is allegedly a US citizen and resides in Houston, Texas.

On 16 May, Bigcas was summoned to a House of Representatives inquiry into the smuggling of high-end vehicles into the Philippines. During the inquiry, Bigcas was quoted by "Gold Star Daily" as saying that, "I'm not into firearms, I'm into racing bikes. I bought the vehicles. I'm proud of these (vehicles). I've worked hard in the US and these (are) my troph(ies)." The "Inquirer" also reported on 17 May that Bigcas transported his vehicles to the Philippines as parts to avoid paying taxes. Under Philippine laws, any undeclared importation of merchandise into Philippine territory is prohibited.

The NBI also recovered a so-called "blackbook" which allegedly contains the names of persons involved in the sale in the Philippines of luxury vehicles stolen from the US. Bigcas is also believed to be smuggling firearms into the country, the "Gold Star Daily" reported.

Albino reported the 14 May threat to the police. He also instructed security personnel at his office to look out for suspicious persons.

Many Filipino journalists reporting on illegal activities have been attacked since 1986. In March 2009, motorcycle-riding men shot then chief of reporters for dxCC-Radio Mindanao Network, Nilo Labares. Labares, who had been reporting on illegal gambling activities in Cagayan de Oro, survived the attack and was able to identify his attackers. A case against the suspected gunman is being heard in a Makati City court. Makati is part of the country's National Capital Region.

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