Town police chief suspended for threatening Filipino radio journalist

26 May 2010
Source: CMFR

The Philippine National Police has ordered the temporary relief of a town police chief after his alleged harassment of a Manila-based radio broadcaster on 20 May 2010.

The relief order came after Noel Alamar, a reporter for dzMM Radyo Patrol and president of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Press Corps, reported that Pola town Chief Inspector Telesforo Domingo and his men threatened to arrest and shoot him last 20 May 2010.

The “Manila Bulletin” last 21 May 2010 quoted spokesman Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina as saying that Domingo “was temporarily relieved to pave the way for an impartial investigation on the case.” Pola town is in  Oriental Mindoro province, approximately 170 kilometers from Manila.

Domingo allegedly snatched Alamar’s company-issued camera and ordered his arrest for “obstruction of justice” after the reporter took footage of the policemen in civilian clothes carrying high-powered firearms around 9:30 p.m. (local time) in front of the house of mayor-elect Leandro “Dodjie” Panganiban Jr. Policemen are prohibited from bringing firearms while not in uniform under the election gun ban, which is effective until 9 June 2010.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported that Alamar and his wife were in Pola to observe the death anniversary of Alamar’s mother. During his stay at Pola, Alamar said he received complaints about Domingo’s alleged partisan activities in the elections. Alamar informed Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan (Region IV-B) Regional Director Chief Supt. Paul Mascariñas and Oriental Mindoro Provincial chief Senior Supt. Sonny Ricablanca of the alleged partisan activities of the local police. Alamar told CMFR he also planned to interview Domingo for his side.

In an interview with CMFR, Alamar said earlier that day Domingo, who was apparently drunk, went to his house, told him “Sino ka ba (Who are you)?” and then immediately left.

However, Domingo told the Manila-based news site GMANewsTV  that the incident was only due to  “lack of coordination” between Alamar and the police. Domingo explained that he and his companions were in civilian clothes because they were in a hurry to serve warrants of arrest to the wife of the mayor-elect who was facing several criminal charges.

“We had to act immediately. It was already evening. Besides, it was uncomfortable to be in uniform for 24 hours,” he told GMANewsTV

The incident ended only after the Provincial Mobile Group and the incumbent mayor came, Alamar said.

Alamar retrieved his camera from the Pola police station last 21 May 2010. He told CMFR that Domingo had talked to him and apologized for the incident. Alamar said Ricablanca has ordered a thorough investigation and that an investigator has talked to him about the incident.  He will wait for the results of the police investigation before filing any complaint, Alamar said.

Journalists and media practitioners have been under attack before and during the election period. On 9 May 2010, some Camiguin-based reporters were harassed and threatened by the provincial governor after they allegedly caught him and his men engaging in vote-buying. On 23 November last year, 32 journalists and media workers were killed while accompanying a group of people on their way to the provincial office of the Commission on Elections to file the certificate of candidacy of a candidate for governor of the southern Mindanao province of Maguindanao.

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CMFR (http://cmfr.com.ph/) is a SEAPA founding member based in Manila, the Philippines, working to promote ethical journalism and to protect press freedom.

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