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


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