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Arson attack on radio station; journalist gets death threat

(CMFR/IFEX) - Just five days after the killing of publisher and blocktimer Christopher Guarin in General Santos City, unidentified men tried to burn down a university-run radio station in Kabacan town, North Cotabato. The attempt to burn down University of Southern Mindanao's (USM) dxVL Radyo ng Bayan 94.9 FM happened around 4:30 a.m. on 10 January 2012. A gunshot was also heard by security personnel around 1:40 am, a few hours before the arson attempt. Kabacan town, North Cotabato is approximately 943 kilometers south of Manila.

Rhoderick Beñez, dxVL news and information assistant, told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) on 11 January that police recovered a bullet near the door of the station's studio. The bullet allegedly passed through the wall of the studio and hit the studio door.

Beñez could not recall any prior assault or attack against the radio station. “We have not received any threats in relation to our reports,” he added.

Prior to the incident, a university-owned vehicle exploded near the radio station in December 2011.

“We cannot say that it is media repression because this is the first time that something like this happened. What happened was an isolated case. The operation of the radio station will continue,” Beñez told the CMFR.

Beñez said the most recent issues that the station had reported on were illegal drugs and illegal logging. Police are still investigating the incident, Beñez said.

In a separate incident in Cagayan de Oro City (CDO), a political officer allegedly threatened Jeoffrey Baconga, acting chief of reporters of the local Bombo Radyo station, on 8 January. Cagayan de Oro City is approximately 789 kilometers south of Manila.

Baconga told CMFR that he was in the Divisoria area of CDO when the political officer approached him and offered him a ride home. Baconga accepted the offer as he had worked with the political officer before.

While in the car, Baconga said the political officer warned that he could be “the next James Dacoycoy” if he continued his reports on “a government issues”. The official pulled out a gun during their conversation.

James Dacoycoy is the radio name used by broadcaster Michael James Licuanan, who survived an attempt on his life on 24 November 2011. Licuanan had come from his radio program “Zona Libre” when the attack happened. Baconga now hosts the radio program Licuanan left after the attack.

Baconga said the “government issue” involved an allegedly questionable P50-million project of a local government official. Baconga refused to name the government official or to provide details of the project.

Baconga, however, told the political officer that he would continue his commentaries and reports on the issue. “I'm not afraid. I'm going to discuss this (issue). This is about the taxpayers' money,” Baconga told the political officer.

In a phone interview with CMFR, Bombo Radyo station manager Celso Ravelo Maldecer said he advised Baconga to be cautious. “I advised him to take precautions and change his routes when going home - but we do not take the threat too seriously because it will affect our work,” Maldecer told CMFR.

Maldecer told CMFR that Baconga had been discussing illegal mining in the province and other anomalies and irregularities such as the unfair distribution of relief goods to victims of the flash floods triggered by typhoon Sendong, which devastated Cagayan de Oro in December.

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro quoted Baconga as saying that he will continue to investigate the “government issue”. He told Sun.Star that “This has been our promise, that I and my colleagues have given to the people, that we will serve the people no matter what the criminals would think about us or do to us.”

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