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Police in Philippines arrest broadcaster before filing libel complaint

On the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day last 3 May 2013, a police director in Dipolog City arrested a radio blocktime commentator for allegedly libelous commentaries even before the former city police chief had filed a libel complaint.

Former Dipolog City police chief and now Zamboanga del Norte Provincial Police Safety Company head Police Director Supt. Reynaldo Maclang arrested and detained 50-year-old broadcaster Rodolfo Tanquis in the morning of 3 May 2013 prior to filing a libel complaint against him.

Julie Alipala, a reporter for the Philippine Daily Inquirer and a director of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, told CMFR that Tanquis has been criticizing the local police for failing to prevent and solve the many killings in the city when Maclang barged into the dxFL booth.

Maclang allegedly forced his way into the booth of radio station dxFL FM 88.9 where blocktimer Rodolfo Tanquis was in the middle of his early morning commentary program Isyu Karon (Current Issues). Maclang's two policemen escorts blocked the door and prevented other staff from entering the booth while the police director denied on the air any accountability in the unsolved killings. Maclang then slammed his .45 caliber service pistol on the booth console and forced Tanquis to come with him to the Dipolog police station because he was filing a libel complaint against the blocktimer.

Libel is a criminal offense in the Philippines. But only when a complaint has been filed in court and a warrant of arrest issued by a judge may the alleged offender be arrested.

Reports from some Manila newspapers said that Maclang might have been irked by Tanquis' repeated airing of a recorded conversation allegedly between Maclang and a certain Renante uploaded on YouTube. In the video tagged as 'Dipolog Political Scandal', two men were talking about supporting gubernatorial candidate Berto Uy. Renante was allegedly referring to Renante Alga Serreño who is running for councilor of Gutalac town under the Liberal Party (LP) of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.

According to the Dipolog City Prosecutor's Office, Maclang filed a libel complaint against Tanquis at around 4:30 in the afternoon of May 3.­­ Tanquis posted bail of Php10, 000 (approximately USD245) the following day (4 May 2013).

CMFR tried to contact Maclang and Tanquis but they were out of reach as of this writing.

Dipolog is a city in Zamboanga del Norte, a province in Mindanao, southern Philippines some 716 kilometers south of Manila.

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