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Politician, aides attack TV crew in Philippines

A politician and his aides mauled and attempted to shoot members of a television crew covering an alleged vote-buying incident in Ozamis City last 12 May 2013, the eve of the Philippine midterm elections.

Ozamis City is in the province of Misamis Occidental in Mindanao, and is about 1,500 kilometers south of Manila.

Ronda Balita producer Elena Pelare told CMFR that she, reporter Danny Pilar and their cameramen were investigating a crowd gathering at a seaside community suspicious of a mass vote-buying incident, when they noticed that they were being followed by a convoy of vehicles headed by vice mayor turned mayoralty candidate Rolando Romero.

Pelare said Pilar tried to interview Romero, but the vice mayor grabbed his microphone and threw it into the sea. Romero then turned his attention to the cameramen and smashed one of the TV crew's two video cameras.

Pelare said the vice mayor also tried to shoot cameraman Melito Opeña, but that Romero's pistol misfired. When the cameramen tried to leave the area, Romero and his aides ran after them. When Romero was unable to catch up with cameraman Jovani Lumapas, he turned to where his aides were holding Opeña and helped beat up the cameraman.

Romero's group retreated from the area as police were arriving. But he threatened the group, Pelare said, quoting Romero as saying in the vernacular, "We'll see each other again."

Romero's group also confiscated Pelare's still-camera when they saw her taking photos of the incident. She said Lumapas was able to protect his video camera and took footage of the harassment. However, one of Romero's vehicles was blocking the view of Opeña being mauled.

Ronda Balita is a news program on local channel 19. It is scheduled to air daily but only comes out every other day due to the power crisis in Mindanao. One of the program's sponsors is the city government.

Romero could not be reached for comment as of press time. But in a text message quoted by the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines chapter in Ozamis, Romero's political ally, incumbent congressman Loreto Leo Ocampos said the TV crew provoked the vice mayor and that Romero only "defended himself".

On 13 May 2013, the Philippines held midterm elections for the Senate, the House of Representatives, and local government posts. It was the second fully-automated elections in the country's history. The proclamation of all the winners has yet to happen.

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