CMFR/ Philippines – A journalist reported seeing suspicious men around his house in Mabalacat City, Pampanga at least three times after he received a death threat last 24 August 2012. He also received several more death threats through text after the Aug. 24 message. Mabalacat City, Pampanga is 81 kilometers north of Manila.
Ding Cervantes, a reporter of the Manila-based daily Philippine Star and the Pampanga-based tri-weekly newspaperPunto! Central Luzon noticed a man carrying a gun standing outside his house in the morning of 25 August 2012, a day after he received a text message from an unidentified sender saying “Isang bala ka lang (I can kill you with just one shot).”
The SMS was sent through +639435052612. CMFR tried to contact the mobile number but failed to get through.
“I noticed a man with a pistol in his left hip observing as I was driving my car from my garage. As my car faced him, he turned his back and started to type out a message on his phone and then hurriedly rushed away,” Cervantes told CMFR in an email interview. He added that he also saw an armed man standing outside his house when he got back home that same day.
The following day (26 August 2012), Cervantes said that “a man (was) peeping into the gate at home then rushed off when I saw him.” Cervantes then received another threatening text message from the same unknown number saying: “Wag kang palaban. May nagmamatyag sayo dyan sa bahay mo at kahit san ka punta. Nakasalalay buhay mo sa amin. NPA” (Don’t be too aggressive. Someone is watching what you are doing in your house and wherever you go. Your life depends on us. NPA).
Cervantes received another message that day (26 August 2012) that reads: “Huling babala eto. Wag ka sumbong pulis may kapit din kami. At teritoryo namig ng NPA di lang bamban pati dyan.” (This is our final warning. Do not dare to report this to the police. We have connections there. Mabalacat is also our territory not just [Tarlac].” The acronym NPA usually refers to the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). But Cervantes doubts that the NPA is behind the threats and surveillance.
Cervantes has been reporting about critical issues in Pampanga province including the killing of Dutch missionary Willem Geertman, the APECO project in Aurora, and the dispute in Hacienda Luisita.
Cervantes said the threats and surveillance stopped after he reported the incident to the local police. The chief of police of Mabalacat City informed Cervantes that they will increase patrols near his home, and gave him the contact numbers of policemen who could assist him in case of emergency.
This was not the first time that Cervantes has been subjected to threats and even physical attacks due to his reports. In 1997, Cervantes was shot in Apalit, Pampanga while covering the closure of an alcohol plant which he had reported as one of those causing the pollution of the Pampanga river and nearby farmlands in Pampanga and Bulacan.
In 2004 after writing about the proliferation of the illegal gambling game video karera in Pampanga, four men poked their armalite rifles at Cervantes’s car as he was making a turn at a dark corner on his way home between Mabalacat and Angeles City.