Originally published on the CMFR website on 5 August 2016.
CMFR/PHILIPPINES – A Butuan-based journalist said he was threatened by a Regional Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Director following an altercation between the two on 24 July 2016. Butuan City is 1,208 kilometers south of Manila.
Ben Serrano reported to CMFR allegedly continuous threats from PIA Caraga Regional Director Abner Caga after a heated confrontation at a Philippine Army Headquarters in Bancasi, Butuan City. According to Serrano, Caga choked him before punching him twice. Caga denied the allegations.
The incident supposedly happened when Hope Radio Butuan Anchor Jun Cabangal asked Serrano to attend a press conference at the army camp regarding National Reservist Week. After interviewing Col. Manny Tawan-Tawan, Serrano was informed by Lt. Col. Rey Pasco that the presscon had been cancelled, to which he replied: “Who said so? The group director?,” referring to Col. Tawan-Tawan. According to Serrano, it was then that Caga attacked him.
After the incident, Serrano said that he has been receiving threats through text messages from unknown sources.
Caga, on the other hand, told CMFR that Serrano was exaggerating. While Caga admits being in a heated confrontation with Serrano, he said that this was entirely verbal and no physical altercation happened. According to him, Serrano was not invited to the press conference. He also said that Serrano repeatedly taunted him, which made him lose his cool and challenged Serrano to a fistfight. However, he denied physically hurting Serrano. CMFR also sought the side of Lt. Col. Pasco, who said he witnessed the incident. Pasco supported Caga’s statement.
Caga also denied sending threats to Serrano, whom he referred to as a “bully”.
Serrano also identified other witnesses to the incident. However, when CMFR tried to get their statements, they denied actually witnessing the incident. Serrano believes that they too might have been threatened by Caga.
Serrano has already reported the incident, as well as the threats, to the Regional Police Office of Caraga.