Davao broadcaster gets death threats

At 5:45 am, Monday, broadcaster Elgin Damasco of Radio Mindanao Network’s DxDC in Davao City received a text message from sender 0905-507-5929 that read: “Ka Damasco, mula ng kayong 3 ay naging spokesman ng NPA, matagumpay kayong nanalo sa propaganda laban sa AFP, dahil dyan may reward kayong 3 (Ka Damasco, since the three of you became spokespersons of the New People’s Army, the Armed Forces of the Philippines lost in the propaganda battle and because of that, a reward awaits the three of you).”

The text message came while Damasco was 15 minutes towards the end of his daily program Tinuod nga Balita (The Real News). Upon receiving the message, Damasco said he made a commentary explaining that he, as a journalist, was not favoring anyone in his coverage nor does he play the role of the NPA’s spokesperson.

Upon saying this, however, another text message from the same sender arrived. It read: “Matapang ka ha…(So you’re really tough).”

Damasco says his radio program maintains the value of balance in journalism. He gives equal time to sources from both the AFP and the NPA. He continues: “The criticisms against the military were based on facts that our news team gathered from those who have been victims of the military’s excesses.”

“How can our program be biased against the military when we give them equal opportunity to air their side? How can we be speaking for the NPA when we are not even praising the communist guerrillas?” Damasco says.

He adds, “What are they expecting us to do with their (military) abuses and lies? Applaud them? We cannot praise anyone or any group who abuse people and lie about it.”

Damasco believes that the military was behind the death threat. He recalled how they extensively covered the military excesses in Paquibato District after several residents of the village severely suffered from the hands of military officials from the 3rd Special Forces under the 1003rd Infantry Battalion.

Due to this incident, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte lashed at the military recently. Duterte has since announced his withdrawal of military fund for the anti-insurgency program in Davao City.

Damasco also links the death threat to the interview he had with NPA leader Leoncio Pitao, aka Commander Parago, head of the First Pulang Bagani Command of the NPA, in his lair in Paquibato District. The interview happened three days after Parago’s daughter, 20-year old elementary teacher Rebelyn, was found dead in an irrigation ditch in Carmen, Davao del Norte.

After the Parago interview, Damasco said suspicious looking men had been roaming within the vicinity of his home and that of Dodong Solis, DxDC station manager. Neighbors have testified that the men have been asking them the whereabouts of Damasco and Solis.

In February, Damasco also reported on the Sister Stella Matutina story. Matutina, an anti-mining advocate and affiliated with the environmental group Panalipdan (Protect), and three others, were rounded up by soldiers in Barangay Taytayan in Baganga in Davao Oriental. Matutina and her colleagues were detained by the soldiers for eight hours inside the Barangay Hall.

Damasco says the military has denied mauling Matutina and three others but Damasco’s investigation into the matter proved otherwise.

Reference: Jeffrey M. Tupas
NUJP-Davao Secretary General


Bloody milestone


March 11, 2009
Reference: Nonoy Espina, vice chair

February 23, 2009 should be remembered as a milestone, albeit not a happy one, in the recent history of the Philippine press.

On that day, Ernesto Rollin of Oroquieta City became the 100th journalist to be killed in the Philippines since 1986, when we were supposed to have regained our democracy.

100 deaths, meant to silence men and women whose calling was to serve the people’s right to know; 100 deaths that expose as a mockery government’s claims to being a democracy.

100 deaths that, at the same time, are a testament to the determination of the members of the independent Philippine press, who continue performing their duties despite all the attempts to stifle them, including through the ultimate censorship.

In a democracy, life is held sacred and rights inviolable. In a democracy, free expression and opinion, including or, rather, especially the contrary, are valued. For it is in the arena of free discourse that democracy thrives.

And surely a democracy would never suppress the truth.

Unfortunately, aside from the regular lip service it pays, and the predictable creation of mostly useless task forces, government has done practically nothing to stop the killings and other assaults on journalists and bring the perpetrators, including masterminds, to justice.

Especially not this administration.

Not only have more than half the murders – 64 of 100 – happened during its watch, this administration is the only one since the unlamented Marcos dictatorship, that has actually attempted the wholesale muzzling of the press, as it did with its threats of takeover during the short-lived state of national emergency in 2006.

More often than not, when reminded that its inaction and apathy to the killings is akin to tacit approval of these atrocities, this administration has often resorted to blaming a lack of ethics and professionalism among journalists, as if these justified the loss of lives and government’s failure to protect its citizens.

And it is only in this administration that a presidential spouse has deigned to undertake his own large-scale harassment of the press by filing multiple libel cases against more than 40 journalists without a peep from the chief executive.

We continue to mourn our 100 fallen colleagues, deprived of justice, even as we hail them as martyrs to our continuing struggle for genuine freedom of the press and expression.

We vow that their deaths shall not be in vain, that we who remain shall not waver, in the face of continued threats and assaults and government’s failure or refusal to protect its citizenry, in our duty to deliver to our audiences the information so crucial to shaping their individual and collective future.

Let us remember the fallen 100:

1986 (3)
Pete F. Mabazza
Manila Bulletin
1986 – April 24

Wilfredo “Willy” Vicoy
1986 – April 24

Florante “Boy” de Castro
DXCP/General Santos City

1987 (6)
Dionisio Perpetuo Joaquin
Olongapo News
1987 – April 12

Narciso Balani
DXRA / Davao City
1987 – Aug. 27

Rogie Zagado
DXRA / Davao City
1987 – Aug. 27

Leo Palo
DXRA / Davao City
1987 – Aug. 27

Martin Castor
Pilipino Ngayon
1987 – Aug. 28

Ramon Noblejas
DYVL/Tacloban City
1987 – Aug. 28

1988 (3)
Noel Miranda
Mindanao Scanner
1988 – March 29

Ruben R. Manrique
Luzon Tribune/Bataan
1988 – Aug. 12

Josef Aldeguer Nava
Visayan Life Today/lloilo
1988 – 0ct. 30

1989 (2)
Severino Arcones
DYFM-Radyo Bombo/ lloilo
1989 – 0ct. 17

Eddie Telan
1989 – Dec. 0I

1990 (2)
Reynaldo Catindig Sr.
Northern Sierra Madre Express/Isabela
1990 – May 15

Jean Ladringan
Southern Star/General Santos City
1990 – July 08

1991 (1)
Nesino Paulin Toling
Panguil Bay Monitor/ Ozamiz
1991 – April 14

1992 (4)
Danilo Vergara
Philippine Post
1992 – July 01

Ladjid Ladja
Prensa Zamboanga
1992 – JuIy 03

Rev. Greg Hapalla
1992 – Sep. 21

Gloria Martin
DXXX/ Isabela Basilan
1992 – Dec. 30

1993 (3)
Romeo Andrada Legaspi
Voice of Zambales
1993 – Jan. 11

Rosauro Lao
Cotabato News
1993 – Nov. 22

Ding Sade
Cotabato News
1993 – Nov. 22

1994 (-)
1995 (-)

1996 (2)
Ferdinand Reyes
Press Freedom/Dipolog City
1996 – Feb. 12

Alberto Berbon
DZMM / Manila
1996 – Dec. 15

1997 (3)
Evelyn Joy Militante
GMA Channel 2 / Legazpi City

Daniel J. Hernandez
People’s Journal Tonight / Manila
1997 – June 03

Regalado Mabazza
Polaris cable network
1997 – Dec. 17

1998 (4)
Odilon Mallari
DXCP / General Santos City
1998 – February

Rey Bancairin
DXLL / Zamboanga City
1998 – March 29

Nelson Catipay
DXMY/ Cotabato
1998 – April 16

Dominador “Dom” Bentulan
DXGS / General Santos City
1998 – Oct. 30

1999 (1)
Frank Palma
Bombo Radyo / Bacolod
1999 – April 25

2000 (2)
Vincent Rodriguez
DZMM / Pampanga
2000 – May 23

Olimpio Jalapit
DXPR / Pagadian City
2000 – Nov. 17

2001 (4)
Rolando Ureta
DYKR / Kalibo, Aklan
2001 – Jan. 03

Muhammad Yusop
DXID / Pagadian City
2001 – Feb. 24

Candelario Cayona
DXLL / Zamboanga City
2001 – May 30

Joy Mortel
Mindoro Guardian
2001 – May 31

2002 (3)
Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez
CEGP / Davao
2002 – April 05

Edgar Damalerio
DXKP, Zamboanga Scribe /
Mindanao Gold Star, Pagadian City
2002 – May 13

Sonny Alcantara
Kokus / Celestron Cable TV
San Pablo City
2002 – Aug. 22

2003 (7)
John Belen Villanueva Jr.
DZGB /Legazpi City
2003 – April 28

Apolinario “Polly” Pobeda
DWTI / Lucena City
2003 – May 17

Bonifacio Gregorio
Dyaryo Banat / Tarlac
2003 – July 8

Bonifacio Gregorio
Dyaryo Banat / Tarlac
2003 – July 8

Rico Ramirez
DXSF/Butuan City
2003 – Aug. 20

Juan “Jun” Pala
DXGO/Davao City
2003 – Sept. 6

Nelson Nadura
DYME/Masbate City
2003 – Dec. 2

2004 (13)
Rowel Endrinal
DZRC/Legazpi City
2004 – Feb. 11

Elpidio “Ely” Binoya
Radyo Natin
General Santos City
2004 – June 17

Roger Mariano
DZJC-Aksyon Radio/ Laoag
2004 – July 31

Arnnel Manalo
2004 – Aug. 5

Jonathan Abayon
RGMA Superadyo
General Santos City
2004 – Aug. 8

Fernando Consignado
Radio Veritas / Laguna
2004 – Aug. 12

Romy Binungcal
Remate / Bataan
2004 – Sept. 29

Eldy Gabinales (Eldy Sablas)
DXJR-FM / Tandag, Surigao del Sur
2004 – Oct. 19

Gene Boyd Lumawag
MindaNews / Jolo, Sulu
2004 – Nov. 12

Herson Hinolan
Bombo Radyo / Kalibo, Aklan
2004 – Nov. 13

Michael Llorin
Freelance photojournalist/ Manila
2004 – Nov. 13

Allan Dizon
Freeman Cebu and Banat News
2004 – Nov. 27

Stephen Omaois
Guru News Weekly / Kalinga
2004 – Dec. 1

2005 (10)
Edgar Amoro
Freelance broadcaster
Pagadian City
2005 – Feb. 2

Arnulfo Villanueva
Asian Star Express Balita
Naic, Cavite
2005 – Feb. 28

Romeo Sanchez
DZNL, Baguio
2005 – March 9

Marlene Garcia Esperat
The Midland Review / Tacurong City
2005 – March 24

Klein Cantoneros
DXAA-FM / Dipolog City
2005 – May 4

Philip Agustin
Starline Times Recorder / Dingalan, Aurora
2005 – May 10

Rolando Morales
DWMD-Radio Mindanao Network, South Cotabato
2005 – July 3

Ricardo “Ding” Uy
DZRS-AM Sorsogon City
2005 – November 18

Robert Ramos
Katapat, Laguna
2005 – November 21

George Benaojan
DYDD, Cebu City
2005 – December 2

2006 (13)
Rolly Cañete
DXPR, Pagadian City
2006 – January 20

Graciano Aquino
Central Luzon Forum, Bataan
2006 – January 21

Orlando Mendoza
Tarlac Profile / Tarlac Patrol
2006 – April 2

Nicolas Cervantes
2006 – May 2

Albert Orsolino
Saksi Ngayon
2006 – May 16

Fernando “Dong” Batul
DYPR Puerto Princesa, Palawan
2006 – May 22

George Vigo
Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), Kidapawan City
2006 – June 19

Macel Alave-Vigo
DXND Kidapawan City
2006 – June 19

Armando Pace
Radyo Ukay dxDS Digos City
2006 – July 18

Ralph Ruñez
2006- July 28

Prudencio Melendrez
Saksi Ngayon, Metro Manila
2006- July 31

Ponciano Grande
The Recorder and Nueva Ecija Times
2006- December 7

Andres “Andy” Acosta
dzJC Aksyon Radyo Ilocos Norte
2006- December 20

2007 (5)
Hernani Pastolero
Lightning Courier Sultan Kudarat
2007- February 19

Carmelo Palacios
Radyo ng Bayan Nueva Ecija
2007- April 18

Dodie Nuñez
Katapat Cavite
2007- May 21

Vicente Sumalpong
Radyo ng Bayan Tawi-Tawi
2007- June 25

Fernando “Batman” Lintuan
dxGO Aksyon Radyo
2007- December 24

2008 (7)
Benefredo Y. Acabal
Pilipino Newsmen Cavite-Bulacan
2008- April 7

Marcos Mataro
UNTV 37 Manila
2008- April 27

Bert Sison
DZAT-AM Lucena City
2008- July 1

Martin Roxas
RMN DYVR – Roxas City, Capiz
2008- August 7

Dennis Cuesta
RMN DXMD – General Santos City
2008- August 9

Arecio Pagrigao
Radio Natin – Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental
2008- November 17

Leo Luna Mila
Radio Natin – Northern Samar
2008- December 2

2009 (2)
Badrodin Abas
dxCM – Radyo Ukay
2009- January 21

Ernie Rollin
dxSY-AM – Oroquieta City,. Misamis Oriental
2009- February 23

NUJP Condemns Attack on Radioman Labares

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemns
the attack on Cagayan de Oro broadcaster Nilo Labares of Radio
Mindanao Network’s station dxCC who was shot and seriously wounded the evening of March 5, 2009.

Colleagues describe Labares as a hard-hitting commentator who was
active in denouncing illegal activities such as cockfights and unlicensed entertainment joints in his city when he was attacked.

Cagayan de Oro journalists say Labares informed his colleagues at RMN that he had been receiving threats before the attack and, at one
point, was approached by an emissary of a “powerful” personality who warned him to stop his tirades against video carera and even asked how much it would take him to do so.

His network has said Labares has been declared out of danger. But
while, we hope for his speedy recovery, we worry that his safety is
far from assured and demand that authorities act posthaste to secure him and others who may be under threat.

Again, while we reiterate that we see no proof of any official policy
of directly attacking journalists, we nevertheless lay the blame for
this and previous assaults on our colleagues, too many of who have
been silenced permanently, on the government, whose inaction and
apathy, as well as its actual attempts to muzzle the media and curtail freedom of the press and expression, have nurtured the culture of impunity that emboldens those who wish to silence us.

The situation is not helped any by the efforts of ill-advised
lawmakers to craft repressive legislation like the right of reply
bill, or to sabotage efforts to expand democratic space like that
which perverted what would have been a bill to decriminalize libel
into one that would be even more draconian than the existing law.

These continued attempts to silence the independent media, whether
through physical assaults, government attempts at control or devious legislation are alarming symptoms not just of a general breakdown in law and order but, worse, of an increasing drift toward repression.

We do wish we are wrong and dare government to prove us so.

Unfortunately, that may be wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, we call on our colleagues and the public we serve to
band together and refuse to waver. Only our united resistance and
determination can prevent those who seek to rob us of our freedoms.

Nonoy Espina
Vice Chairperson

NUJP Statement on the Deferment of the Libel Bill Passage

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines takes cognizance
of Speaker Prospero Nograles’ deferment of the passage on third
reading of House Bill 5760 because the measure, which is supposed to
consolidate several bills that seek to decriminalize libel, veered
away from the original intent.

We also express our appreciation for the withdrawal of authorship from
HB 5760 of party-list Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casiño,
Liza Maza, Luzviminda Ilagan and Rafael Mariano, which called
attention to the fact that the bill, contrary to its original intent,
actually provided for even harsher penalties.

At the same time, while we thank Speaker Nograles for deferring
passage of the bill and ordering its review, we also reject the notion
forwarded by lawmakers that the decriminalization of libel is a
“companion bill” to the onerous and patently unconstitutional right of
reply bill, just as we dismiss the even more inane suggestion that
passing the right of reply bill will end the murder of journalists.

To allow this would be to submit to what can only be blackmail of the
lowest order.

Thus, while we urge the passage of a bill genuinely decriminalizing
libel, we will never submit that a right of reply bill, no matter how
amended or watered down, can ever be acceptable since the very idea of
such a legislation is in itself a direct assault on freedom of the
press and of expression, and of the people’s right to know.

Appellate court denies presidential spouse’s bid to stop class suit

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – The Court of Appeals (CA) in Manila denied for “lack of merit” the motion for reconsideration presidential spouse Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo had filed to stop the hearing of the class suit filed by 36 journalists and three media organizations against him.

On 24 February 2009, the CA’s former Seventh Division affirmed its 22 September 2008 ruling to allow the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) to continue hearing the multi-million class suit filed by the journalists and media organizations against Mr. Arroyo. The decision was penned by Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta. Associate Justices Edgardo Cruz and Normandie Pizarro concurred with the decision.

Thirty-six journalists together with the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and the newspaper The Daily Tribune filed a P12.5-million class suit against Mr. Arroyo on 28 December 2006 in response to the numerous libel suits he filed against journalists. They argued that the 11 libel suits filed by Mr. Arroyo against 46 journalists/ media practitioners abused his right to litigate and was an attack on press freedom. Libel is a criminal offense in the Philippines.

The appellate court said Mr. Arroyo failed to present new arguments against the case and that it “need not discuss all over again the same issues it had previously resolved.”

“To be sure, the present motion for reconsideration does not present any new issue which has not been addressed in the Court’s decision. The motion for reconsideration merely invokes rulings in certain cases already cited in the petition and memorandum of petitioner,” the CA said.

The appellate court emphasized in its 24 February 2009 ruling that Mr. Arroyo “may (still) present evidence to prove his allegation of bad faith in filing the amended complaint” during the preliminary hearing on the affirmative defenses before the Makati RTC.

“The trial court may also order the re-assessment of the docket fees and if there is any deficiency, it shall order private respondents to pay the same within a reasonable period,” the CA added.

It also stated that its decision is only on the issue of whether the Makati RTC acted in grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack of jurisdiction, when it admitted the amended complaint in the class suit. Said CA resolution did not address the merits of the civil action suit. It said the merits of the case would be addressed in the proceedings conducted by the Makati RTC.

Mr. Arroyo filed the motion for reconsideration on 16 October 2008 saying that the CA “acted contrary to law when it held that respondent judge did not commit grave abuse in admitting the amended complaint considering its lack of jurisdiction over the complaint” in its 22 September 2008 decision denying his petition for certiorari.

Mr. Arroyo filed a petition for certiorari in 2007 saying that Makati RTC Branch 143 judge Zenaida Galapate Laguilles committed “grave abuse of discretion” for admitting the journalists’ amended complaint despite the “non-payment of the proper docket fees”.

A certiorari is a writ that could be issued by a superior court to a lower court to annul or modify ongoing proceedings if the latter court acted on a case outside its jurisdiction.

Mr. Arroyo argued that a court only acquires jurisdiction after the payment of the proper fees based on the ruling in Manchester Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals. According to Arroyo, petitioners failed to pay the proper docket fee. He said they should have paid a docket fee of P9 million as he interpreted that each petitioner was asking for P12.5 million in damages each in the original complaint. Docket fees are computed based on the damages sought by a party initiating a civil action.

Several media organizations lauded the CA decision. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in a statement said that “(t)he ruling…proves that the judiciary may still be a refuge of those victimized by the powerful and the wealthy.”

GMANews.TV reported last 2 March 2009 that Mr. Arroyo will question the decision of the CA before the Supreme Court. Ruy Rondain, legal counsel of Mr. Arroyo, told GMANews.TV that the CA “misunderstood” their petition.

A presidential spokesperson announced on 3 May 2007 that Mr. Arroyo would withdraw all the libel cases he filed against the journalists. However, the journalists and media organizations decided to continue with the case to establish the legal parameters in public personalities’ suing media practitioners for libel. #

Media to Congress: No Negotiation on the Right of Reply Bill

The message of the members of the press to House Speaker Prospero
Nograles was clear: No bargaining on the passage of the right of reply
bill at the Lower House.

Leaders of media institutions attended a dialogue called by the
Speaker this morning at Melo’s Steak House in Quezon City.

“The bill is an abridgement of our freedom. This is not something open
to negotiation,” said Vergel Santos, a journalist since martial and
now Chair of the Editorial Board of the daily broadsheet Business
World and Trustee of the media monitoring group Center for Media
Freedom and Responsibility.

At the same forum, Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. of the 6th District of
Manila and chair of the committee on public information said his
committee is planning to amend their version of the bill and water it
down to something, he believes, is acceptable to the working press.

Nograles added that “there is pressure because it has been passed in
the Senate.” He said the bill will be open to floor deliberations when
Congress reopens in April, claiming they have no choice because it was
transmitted to them by the Senate as soon as it was passed on July 28,

However, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
vice-chairperson Nonoy Espina said these were nothing but bargaining
chips being dangled to the press.

“Although we respect the House processes, we just want to reiterate
that our stand is final. We don’t want the bill, we want it totally

In its signature drive against the right of reply bill, the NUJP has
garnered close to 300 signatures from across the country in just a
span of two weeks.

Other media leaders at the dialogue included Joe Pavia, ecxecutive
director of the Philippine Press Institute, Isagani Yambot and Neal
Cruz, publisher and columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Nine
Cacho-Olivares, publisher of the Daily Tribune, Dr. Cris Icban,
editor-in-chief of the Manila Bulettin, Charie Villa, head for news
gathering of ABS CBN, Alwyn Alburo, senior desk officer of GMA 7 and
NUJP deputy secretary-general, Ed Lingao, head for news operations of
ABC TV-5, and Marichu Villanueva, news editor of the Philippine Star.

NUJP welcomes CA decision on Mike Arroyo’s attempt to stop media lawsuit

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines welcomes the Court of Appeals’ affirmation of its earlier decision denying First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo’s petition to stop the Makati Regional Trial Court from proceeding with hearings on the class suit filed by media against him.

The ruling, along with the Makati RTC’s earlier decision granting the plaintiff’s plea for liberality in applying the rules of court and allowing the suit to proceed, proves that the judiciary may still be a refuge of those victimized by the powerful and the wealthy.

Mr. Arroyo’s attempt to head off the class suit by insisting that the plaintiffs should have posted P9 million in docket fees betrays the mindset with which he maliciously and frivolously sued more than 40 of our colleagues with libel, a mindset that holds justice is attainable only for those with power and wealth.

It was clear from the start that the class suit was filed not to seek personal satisfaction but to drive home the point that no one, not even anyone as privileged as Jose Miguel Arroyo, can attempt to silence the press with ill-conceived harassment suits and think to get away with it.

And so we say thank you to magistrates who take their calling to heart and make the courts available for those who seek justice and protection from the abuses of the mighty.

Nonoy Espina, NUJP vice chair