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IFJ rejects dismissal of journalists' complaint

(IFJ/IFEX) - May 30, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls for the immediate reversal of a decision to dismiss a complaint made against Camiguin Island Governor Jurdin Jesus Romualdo by four former media workers on June 10, 2010.

According to reports from IFJ affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), a panel of three prosecutors dismissed the complaint on May 11 after a preliminary investigation found there was insufficient evidence to support its claims.

The complaint was made by Alphyn Cabañog, Algin Lobino, Herbert Hugo Dumaguing and Hubert Dumaguing after an alleged attack in Camiguin Island, in the Southern Philippines on May 9, 2010, the day before the Philippines presidential election. The men allegedly recorded video evidence of what appeared to be vote-buying by supporters of Catarman, Camiguin mayor Nestor Jacot, a known supporter of Romualdo.

The complaint claimed Romualdo and Jacot had illegally detained, threatened, and robbed the four men, and violated Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code, which relates to the carrying of firearms during an election period. The prosecutors also questioned the legitimacy of the four men's status as media workers, calling them "guns for hire."

By contrast, a case filed against Herbert Hubert Dumaguing for trespass by Joseph Bitas, a supporter of Jacot, is now at trial. Bitas alleges Dumaguing entered his house when filming the alleged vote-buying.

"The IFJ is concerned that an alleged assault on the media can be so easily dismissed by prosecutors, and that their credibility be called into question in this way," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"It is equally worrying that the counter-claim against Herbert Hubert Dumaguing continues to be prosecuted in the courts."

Meanwhile, the IFJ shares NUJP concerns about reports that the alleged plotters of the Ampatuan Town Massacre are receiving special treatment while incarcerated at Camp Bagong Diwa, in Taguig City, Metro Manila.

According to local media reports, Andal Ampatuan Sr., who is one of the key suspects in the November 23, 2009 massacre of 58 people, including 32 journalists, is able to move freely inside the high-security prison. The NUJP welcomed the dismissal of warden Glenford Valdepenas and other prison staff who are alleged to have offered Ampatuan "VIP treatment" in the prison.

A series of photos emerged on May 26 in which Ampatuan is seen talking on a mobile phone, receiving a massage and visits by a group of up to 13 people, according to a report on http://www.ABS-CBNNews.com

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