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Arson attack on church-owned radio station

(CMFR/IFEX) - Unidentified men set fire to a Catholic Church-owned radio station in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, on 26 October 2011. Occidental Mindoro is approximately 156 kilometers from Manila.

According to the radio station's Helen de Guzman, the caretaker of the church-owned Catholic Media Network dzVT noticed the fire around 1 a.m. (local time). The radio's transmitters, computers, cables and other equipment were lost in the fire, de Guzman added.

A report by another church-owned station, Radyo Veritas (Truth Radio), quoted dzVT program manager Daisy Leano as saying that "the damage to the station's property, including the transmitter and generator, cost more or less 10 million pesos (approx. US$231,370)." The radio station's caretaker was hurt while trying to put out the fire, de Guzman said.

News reports quoted MIMAROPA (Mindoro Occidental and Oriental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan - Region 4B) regional police head Chief Supt. Artemio Hicban as saying that a gas canister was found around the radio station's premises. "An arson investigator found a container of gas, which we suspect was used to set the fire," said Hicban.

Meanwhile, Hicban was also quoted in the GMANews Online report as saying that unidentified men also tried to burn down a seminary in San Jose a few days before.

Police have yet to identify the suspects and motives behind the attack. However, Radyo Veritas reported that the police had pointed to the New People's Army (NPA) as the group behind the attack on the Church-owned radio.

But de Guzman said the radio station never claimed that the NPA was behind the attacks. Leano, quoted in the Radyo Veritas report, also denied saying this. "We refuse to give out speculations on who and what is the motive behind the burning of our radio station since we still have no evidence," Leano told Radyo Veritas.

Alex del Valle, a radio anchor and reporter in San Jose, told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility that the possible motive behind the attack on dzVT is its commentaries against a local politician. "They are one of those who criticized a local politician here," del Valle said.

This was the second attack on dzVT this month. De Guzman told CMFR that unidentified persons also tried to burn down the station on 20 October 2011. The station's generator set and a room where important documents were kept were damaged in the first attack. De Guzman also told CMFR that radio staff had noticed unidentified men casing the radio station since September.

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