CMFR Philippines alert: Correspondents threatened by local government official

CMFR/Philippines— Two provincial correspondents of a national broadsheet said they were indirectly threatened with harm by a local government official in Alfonso Lista, Ifugao on 10 May 2008. Ifugao is a province approximately 350 km northeast of Manila.

Reporter Maria Elena Catajan and photographer Redjie Cawis, both correspondents of the national broadsheet Malaya (Free) said that vice mayor Clarence Polig did not utter any explicit threat. But they felt threatened because, while he kept saying while they were interviewing him that what they were doing was illegal and they were trespassing, his armed companions were cocking their guns.

Catajan and Cawis had gone to Alfonso Lista, Ifugao upon the recommendation of the Department of Tourism and local officials to cover a local fiesta.

A police blotter report said that Polig, who was described as “intoxicated, ” started the “heated argument” with Catajan and Cawis at his house in Alfonso Lista between 6 and 9 p.m. on 10 May 2008.

“Polig deemed their coverage was illegal and accused them of trespassing. [Polig said the] media group has no ‘work order’…,” the blotter report said.

Polig, according to the blotter entry, told Catajan and her companions that “all dealings with the [Alfonso Lista] municipality had to pass through his approval.”

Catajan told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) that Polig also shouted expletives at her and Cawis when they tried to explain that the town’s mayor had invited them to cover the event. Polig and his three companions were armed, Catajan said.

“At that point, they were alarmed to notice him (Polig) and his three companions bringing out their guns. They offered to leave the municipality but were stopped by Polig’s companions and an unidentified man wearing a (ski mask) and heavy sweater appeared,” the blotter entry said

Catajan said she and Cawis rushed out of the vice mayor’s house and boarded their van, but that the unidentified man in the ski mask took a motorcycle and trailed their vehicle for some time.

Catajan and Cawis reported the incident to the police in the capital town of Lagawe on May 11

Catajan told CMFR that they she and Cawis now fear for their security and are considering filing a complaint. with reports from Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau

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