Journalist assaulted by businessman

CMFR/ Philippines – An editor of a weekly newspaper was assaulted by a businessman and brother of a town mayor in the province of Sorsogon last 23 September 2012. Sorsogon is 373 kilometers south of Manila.

Bobby Labalan, editor of the weekly newspaper Sorsogon Now, said he was attacked by businessman Joseph “Nono” Yap III, owner of Muntopar Builders and brother of Prieto-Diaz town Mayor Jocelyn Yap-Lelis . Labalan said it might have been for his reporting an alleged anomaly in a government project the businessman is involved with. Labalan is a member of the national directorate of the National Union of Journalists of the Phjilippines (NUJP).

Labalan said that Yap suddenly approached him outside a coffee shop while he was talking with other journalists. Yap allegedly asked Labalan why he was being “attacked” in the newspaper Sorsogon Now, and then punched the editor in the face. Some journalists stopped Yap from attacking Labalan, while Sorsogon Gov. Raul Lee, who was at the coffee shop during the incident, asked Yap to leave.

Labalan told CMFR that Yap might have been referring to a report which he wrote and was published in Sorsogon Now last 7 August 2012 about Representative Deogracias Ramos Jr.’s asking the House of Representatives to look into the implementation of the “Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan” (PAMANA-Peaceful and Prosperous Citizens) program in the Bicol region. The journalist believes Yap has no reason to be angry because his side was reported in the same 7 August 2012 article.

In the 7 August 2012 report, Ramos questioned discrepancies in the prices of some projects including the building of a 500-m road in Prieto-Diaz town which cost three million pesos (approximately 71,623 USD). Ramos said he wanted to know why three million pesos can build a 700-meter road in another town but can build only a 500-m road in Prieto-Diaz. Ramos named Yap as the contractor for the 500-m Prieto-Diaz road project. Yap’s side was quoted in the report.

In a phone interview with CMFR, Yap admitted punching Labalan in the face, but claimed that the editor lied about interviewing him regarding the allegation of Rep. Ramos. Yap told CMFR that if there were really irregularities in the project, Labalan should have also implicated municipal engineer Rodolfo Destura in the story. Destura is a relative of Boyti Doma, an incumbent provincial board member rumored to be running against Yap’s sister for mayor.

Yap told CMFR that he is planning to file a libel complaint against Labalan for the “malicious” report. Meanwhile, Labalan said that the police will be filing a complaint against Yap on his behalf.

According to Labalan, this was not the first time Yap assaulted a journalist.

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