Hired killers gunned down seven reporters in cold blood in 2003. The seven journalists, most of whom worked for local radio stations, were murdered because of what they reported or commented about corruption, political violence or abuses by local officials. The toll could have been much worse. No fewer than five other journalists survived murder attempts.
In response to criticism about the impunity enjoyed by those who kill journalists, President Arroyo offered a reward of more than 15,000 euros in November to anyone providing information that led to the arrest the murderer of a journalist. Journalists had become dangerous men and women for those with dark secrets to hide, Arroyo said at a press conference. She also called on the chief of police to step up the investigations into these murders, especially that of journalist Edgar Damalerio, who was gunned down by a policeman on the southern island of Mindanao in 2002. However, the offer of a reward had not resulted in any progress in any of the investigations by the end of the year.
The Philippines, especially Mindanao island, continued to be one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. The news media, especially the many local radio station networks, tried to report on corruption and human rights violations despite being caught in the crossfire between the security forces, criminal gangs and rebel groups (both communist and Islamic). Some radio presenters have specialised in denouncing local government corruption, often in the most forthright manner.
Despite the violence, the Filipino press continued to be one of the freest and most diverse in Asia. But certain criticism, especially criticism of her close associates, angered President Arroyo, who even had newspaper editor Ninez Cacho-Olivares imprisoned for publishing a report about an extortion attempt in which one of her lawyers was allegedly implicated. Arroyo, who planned to run for re-election, also made the fight against terrorism one of her chief concerns at the risk of encroaching on basic freedoms.
Like the US troops in Iraq, the Filipino army announced in July that it wanted to "embed" journalists in its military operations against the communist and Islamic armed groups. A spokesman for the Marxist rebels discouraged the press from cooperating.
The military and civilian authorities continued to criticise the news media for relaying the views of the armed movements. The government issued a reminder in 2003 that the publication of strategic information about military operations by or against the guerrillas had been banned by a National Telecommunications Commission circular since 1989. Meanwhile, an investigation by CMFR, a press freedom group, showed that the security forces were the source for most news reports about the war on Mindanao island, that reporting from the field was vary rare, and that editorialists often tended to lump "terrorists" and Muslims together.
Seven journalists killed
John Villanueva of radio DZGB-AM in Legazpi (in Albay province, south of Manila) was shot by two gunmen near his home in the small town of Camalig on 28 April 2003. Hit five times, he was rushed to Bicol hospital where he died from his injuries. Around 3,000 people attended his funeral on 9 May, calling for justice. Ding Uy, the president of Sorsogon Independent Media Reporters Incorporated (SIMRI), said at the funeral the suspected gunmen were members of a special army unit. The radio station’s director, Glenn Barcelon, said Villanueva had not reported receiving any death threats to him. Aged 54, Villanueva was known as "Mr Public Service" by the listeners to his programme "Banguerahan."
The authorities claimed that Villanueva had supported the communist guerrillas in his journalism and in his position as deputy mayor of Camalig. Nonetheless, Gen. Pedrito Magsino told journalists on 6 July the killers were two members of the rebel New People’s Army: Segundo Bongcay (also known as Ka Santi) and Jerry Abache (also known as Ka Josam). He said an eye witness recognised them and that they had tried to intimidate the witness. He also said he passed on all this information to the police, but the police just took note of the two names. The sole witness refused to assist the investigation. A member of a local association of radio journalists, Rodjie Abril, called on Gen. Magsino to produce evidence to support his claims. "The police must check out the different leads," he said.
Radio presenter Apolinario "Polly" Podeba was gunned down near the studios of radio DWTI-AM in Lucena, southeast of Manila, on 17 May by three men on a motorcycle who fired seven shots at close range, hitting him in the head. One of the gunmen even got off the motorcycle to fire more shots at him as he lay on the ground to make sure he was dead. Aged 35 and a former communist guerrilla, Podeba was known for criticising both national and municipal authorities. For the past two years, he and two colleagues had presented a programme called "Nosi ba Lasi" (Who are they?) in which they blamed the mayor of Lucena, Ramon Talaga, for the spread of drugs and gambling in the town. The mayor reacted by closing down the radio station in 2002, forcing it to move outside the city limits.
Since mid-2002, Pobeda had been encouraging listeners to send him text messages by mobile telephone about drug-related problems in their communities, which he would read over the air. Some of these messages implicated local figures, including the mayor. Joselito "Tito" Ojeda, the chairman of Con-Amor Broadcasting and a local politician, said the mayor could have been behind the murder. The mayor, for his part, blamed the murder on political rivals who, he said, were trying to harm him by portraying him as the leading suspect. Pobeda’s wife, Rowena, said he had received death threats by telephone in the weeks prior to his death.
Lucena police chief Danilo Siongco was put in charge of the investigation. Two brothers, Eric and Eulogio Patulay, were arrested on 22 May and were identified by a witness of the murder. They were reported to be the bodyguards of the mayor’s son, Romano Talaga, who is a municipal councillor. But Romano Talaga said they were "just supporters who help out during election campaigns." The head police investigator said they were implicated in other murders and were found in possession of firearms. A third suspect, Leonides Alcantara, was detained on 12 June. But on 18 June, investigators announced that the two witnesses were now refusing to testify for fear of reprisals. The Inquirer newspaper reported on 30 June that another witness, Wilson Ortula, told investigators a member of the Lucena municipal council, Vic Paulo, could have been one of the instigators as he heard one of the Patulay brothers tell Paulo that the job of killing Pobeda had been accomplished.
Newspaper reporter and editorialist Bonifacio Gregorio, 55, was shot three times in the head outside his home in the village of Caramutan in Tarlac province (150 km north of Manila) on 8 July by a lone gunman. He died after being taken to Ramos general hospital. The former head of his village, Gregorio had worked for the local weekly Dyaryo Banat (Attack Newspaper) since 1997. He wrote articles that were very critical of La Paz mayor Dioisio Manuel and had recently accused him of illegally transforming a rice paddy into a cemetery that was inaugurated the day of the murder. His widow, Gertrude, said she had asked her husband to stop investigating stories that angered the local authorities. The mayor denied any involvement in the killing.
The Tarlac news media association, to which Gregorio belonged, said his murder had sent "a terrifying message" to the press. The Tarlac police chief created a special task force to work on the case with the criminal investigations department. A police officer said the murder was carried out by a contract killer. The task force’s head suspended La Paz police chief Rodrigo de Guzman, known for his hostility towards Gregorio. The police announced on 22 July that they were on the heels of two gangs of killers, but refused to name any suspects. They also said they were checking out a range of possible motives, including a possible link to one of Gregorio’s extra-marital affairs. Two former mistresses were among those questioned.
Noel Villarante, 32, a journalist with local radio station DZJV, was gunned down in Santa Cruz in Laguna province (70 km southeast of Manila) on 19 August. At first, he was just wounded when a gunman fired at him as he was outside his home and he managed to scramble inside. But when family members tried to take him to hospital, they came under fire from another gunman and were forced to abandon him. The second gunman then shot him again at point-blank range and continued to shoot him after he had collapsed to the ground.
Villarante, who also wrote for the local paper Laguna Score, had often criticised regional authorities for corruption. His wife Jocelyn told radio station DZRH that he had also denounced illegal gambling. A few days before he was killed, she overheard him in a telephone conversation with at least two members of the regional council (Rolando Bagnes and Susano Tapia) in which he said, "it’s not personal, it’s just my job." The Santa Cruz police arrested Senando Palumbarit as the presumed killer on 25 August and presented him to the news media the next day. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Villarante’s wife identified him as one of the two gunmen on 27 August. Palumlbarit said he was innocent.
Rico Ramirez, a cameraman and journalist with radio DZSF in San Francisco, in the province of Agusan del Sur (on Mindanao island), was gunned down about 100 metres from the station on 20 August by two men, who shot him in the back. Station manager Max Tutor, who witnessed the killing, said police did not get any significant leads. But Ramirez’s recent criticism of local organised crime and drug traffickers appeared to have been the motive.
Two men armed with a revolver and an M-16 submachine-gun fired on radio journalist Juan "Jun" Porras Pala in his car on 6 September in Davao, on Mindanao island, hitting him five times, once in the heart. Aged 49, Pala presented a daily programme on local radio station DXGO and was well known for his fierce criticism of local politicians and communist rebels. He was a former Davao town councillor and ran as an independent for deputy mayor in May 2001. His wife told local journalists: "People know who the murderers are... They must be happy now that Juan is dead and I’m left alone with four children." She refused to allow an autopsy, saying the killers would never be brought to justice. Two days after the murder, President Arroyo voiced support for the family and asked the police to carry out a thorough investigation.
Davao mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Pala’s personal enemy, told journalists: "Pala is dead. The story of his life is over." But Davao’s journalists responded that the mayor was too quick to rejoice at Pala’s death and implied that he could have been the instigator. DXGO’s station manager said: "It was well known that Juan criticised one person in particular." The local representative of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Carlos Conde, said Pala may not have been "a paragon of journalistic virtue" but he would still have been alive if he had not presented a radio programme.
Pala had escaped two previous murder attempts. He was wounded when gunmen had tried to kill him as he rode to work in a taxi on 29 April with three bodyguards, who fired back, forcing the attackers to flee. Prior to that, masked men armed with submachine-guns also fired at his car in June 2001. He was hit by three bullets, but managed to broadcast his programme the next day from his hospital bed. Since then, he had been constantly accompanied by bodyguards.
During the week after Pala’s death, 300 journalists demonstrated in the streets of Davao and Cagayan de Oro in protest against his murder and violence against the press in general. DXGO’s manager announced that Pala’s programmes would be repeated until the investigation was completed. When some 7,000 people accompanied Pala’s coffin on 15 September, shouts were heard from the crowd accusing the mayor of being the instigator.
Nelson Nadura, 42, was shot five times as he rode away on a motorcycle from the studios of radio DYME on the central island of Masbate on 2 December, minutes after presenting his morning news programme "Opinyon Publiko," which covers local and national politics. DYME is owned by the Espinosa family, which is very influential on Masbate. Several of its members planned to run in the May 2004 legislative elections. The day after the murder, President Arroyo promised to bring Nadura’s killers to justice. The police formed a special task force to investigate the case on 5 December. Station manager Chang Enciso said the police were looking for two men for whom they issued Identikit pictures based on witness descriptions. The police suggested the killing could have been the work of the guerrillas of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), of which Nadura was an active member until he abandoned armed struggle in 1998. But a spokesman for the guerrillas denied they were involved. Nadura’s wife Vilam Nadura, a mother of four, blamed his "political opponents" and publicly called for justice.
New information on journalists killed before 2003
Former police officer Guillermo Wapile, the main suspect in the 13 May 2002 murder of journalist Edgar Damalerio, escaped from a police base in Pagadian, on Mindanao island, on 28 January 2003. Wapile had place in police custody there, under the responsibility of local police chief Pedrito Reyes. The police failed to recapture Wapile, but Damalerio’s family said he was still in Pagadian. Following his escape, the two witnesses against Wapile again feared for their safety. One of them, Edgar Amoro, who was in Damalerio’s car when he was killed, said he had received new death threats. "I’m constantly on the alert," he said.
Damalerio’s widow, Gemma, who had spent several months in hiding, feared reprisals against her family. Her lawyer filed a complaint against the police chief on 3 March, accusing him of incompetence in the guarding of detainees. But Reyes retired a few months later without every being questioned about the escape. In May, the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (an alliance of some 10 press freedom organisations) launched a nationwide campaign to press for the arrest of the suspects in this case. Wapile was seen in Pagadian on 20 June and then in San Pablo. In July, it was reported that he had received plastic surgery to his face so that he would not be recognised. It was also reported that he was accompanied by seven accomplices and that he was after the two witnesses of the murder, Edgar Amoro and Edgar Ongue, in order to eliminate them.
The prosecutor’s office in Davao (on Mindanao island) announced on 12 November there was sufficient evidence to charge two soldiers and two militiamen in the murder of Benjaline "Beng" Hernandez on 5 April 2002. A young human rights activist and journalist with several university publications, Hernandez was killed in Arakan Valley, in Cotabato province (on Mindanao island), while investigating implementation of the peace process. She and three local youths with her were gunned down by soldiers led by Sgt. Antonio Torella. The prosecutor’s report named Torella and another soldier, Randolph Tamayo, and two militiamen, Leo Indagacan and Didok Anarna, as the main suspects in these "summary executions." The army disputed the prosecutor’s findings and none of the four had been arrested by the end of the year.
A journalist kidnapped
Virgilio Catoy, a member of the video production company ST-Exposure and a human rights activist, was abducted along with 10 other persons by masked gunmen on 21 April 2003 on the Naujan road in the eastern part of Mindoro island. The group had been heading toward the town of Calapan with the aim of investigating the murders of human rights activists by the military. Six of the eleven were released after an hour. The bodies of Eden Marcellana, the secretary-general of the human rights organisation Karapatan-ST, and Eddie Gumanoy, Karapatan-ST’s president, were found the next day in the town of Bansud. The three other members of the group, including Catoy, were found tied up on a roadside near Bongabong. The survivors said their kidnappers had identified themselves as members of the anti-communist group Alsa Masa. But local human rights groups were convinced that the masked abductors were linked to the army and they accused Col. Jovito Palparan of the 204th infantry regiment of responsiblity. He denied the claim.
A journalist imprisoned
Ninez Cacho-Olivares, director and editor of the national newspaper, The Daily Tribune, was arrested on 4 August 2003 at her home in Parañaque City, southeast of Manila. Her detention, which she called "political persecution," followed the issue of 19 arrest warrants as a result of a "criminal libel" suit filed by President Arroyo’s personal lawyer, Arthur "Pancho" Villaraza. A May 2004 report in The Daily Tribune alleged that Villaraza solicited a kickback of 20 million US dollars from a German construction company in exchange for helping it obtain a contract and permits to build an extension to Manila’s new international airport. Associates of the president also allegedly solicited 50 million dollars from the company in exchange for eliminating a company owned by the Cheng family (a Filipino family of Chinese origin) from the contract. The report did not name President Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel, but various allusions suggested he was implicated. The newspaper based its allegations on recordings of conversations between Villaraza and the construction company’s representatives. Cacho-Olivares was released on bail three days later. The German company confirmed to the press in October that it had indeed been the target of attempted extortion by associates of the president. This was the first time since the restoration of democracy in 1986 that a newspaper editor was arrested. Cacho-Olivares is close to imprisoned former president Joseph Estrada, and The Daily Tribune, which was founded in 1999, supports him.
Four journalists physically attacked
Arvin Malasa, the manager of DXRM-Radyo Natin in Tandag, in Surigao del Sur province (on Mindanao island), was hit six times and seriously wounded when a gunman fired on him as he was returning home one day in February 2003. He told federal police investigators he had criticised parliamentarian Prospero Pichay on the air on the day of the attack. The investigators concluded that local politicians were involved in the murder attempt. Two suspects were named but the police had still made no arrests at the end of the year. Manny Kong, a presenter on DXSN, a Catholic radio station, had also survived a murder attempt in Surigao del Sur in 2002.
Radio journalist and politician Efren Rafanan was injured in an attempt on his life on 31 March near the studios of DZXE-Radio Tirador, a local radio station in Vigan City, in the northern province of Ilocos Sur. His wife, one of his sons, his brother and his bodyguard were all killed in the ambush. More than 3,000 people took part in the procession when they were buried on 7 April. The provincial police chief announced that day that Identikit pictures had been produced from witness descriptions and that the police were looking for the car used in the ambush. But he refused to say what motive was suspected. President Arroyo’s office announced on 10 April that the police had been told to protect Rafanan and his family. But the investigation did not progress. Along with some 100 supporters, Rafanan demonstrated on 13 May outside police headquarters in Quezon City, the seat of government, accusing Ilocos Sur provincial governor Deogracias Savellano and his predecessor, Luis Singson. A supporter of ousted president Joseph Estrada, Rafanan suspected that President Arroyo was protecting Savellano and Singson.
Marlyne Esperat, a freelance journalist and contributor to the local newspapers Midland Review and Gold Star, was the target of an apparent murder attempt on 6 June when men on a motorcycle threw a grenade at her home in Barangay New Isabela, a neighbourhood in the town of Tacurong on Mindanao island. Esperat was in Manila at the time and no one was hurt. As a reporter, she closely follows corruption scandals involving local politicians.
A gunman walked into the studios of DYDD Bantay Radyo (Radio Watch) in Cebu City on 12 June and fired on presenter Reynaldo Cortes. Hit in the right side of the groin, Cortes was hospitalized. The police did not name any suspect. But Cortes thought a customs officer was responsible as he had criticised the luxurious lifestyle of certain customs inspectors in his programme "Engkwentro," eliciting an angry reaction from some of them.
11 journalists threatened
Orly Navarro, a commentator on Super Radyo as well as its manager, was publicly threatened by Julian V. Resuello, the mayor of San Carlos in the northern province of Pangasinan, during a meeting of the province’s mayors on 3 January 2003. Resuello insulted Navarro, tried to slap him and threatened to kill him, brandishing a pistol. He said no journalist had the right to criticise him. He apparently felt targeted when, shortly before the meeting, Navarro lamented the spread of clandestine gambling in San Carlos on the air. After the local press club and Super Radyo’s other journalists criticised the mayor for making the threat, he went to the station and apologised to Navarro on 7 January. But Navarro said he still intended to file a complaint.
Tonette Orejas, the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s correspondent in the northern city of Luzon, began receiving anonymous death threats in telephone calls and telephone text messages on 15 March, two days after submitting a story to her editor about a sex scandal involving an aide to Pampanga province’s deputy governor, who is President Arroyo’s son. The aide, Augusto Sanchez, was accused of sexually abusing his step-daughter. In the threatening messages, Orejas was urged to withdraw the still unpublished story she had submitted.
Jeama E. Sabate, a stringer in Santa Cruz (Laguna province) for the newspapers Tempo and Manila Bulletin, received anonymous death threats on 19 August that were linked to her articles about the death of journalist Noel Villarante.
Roberto Destura, the chief of police of Tangub City (on Mindanao island), challenged Richard Mañego of radio DXDD to a duel on 17 November. Mañego said the police chief wanted revenge for his reports about the spread of illegal gambling in the city. Destura made a threatening call to another DXDD journalist, Bethser Dablo, the same day but later apologised to both of them.
Gunmen walked into the studios of Radyo Natin in Lupon, in Davao Oriental province (Mindanao island), on 23 November and said they were looking for owner Romeo Bote and presenter Marlo Lim Roman in order to kill them. An employee was hit with a gun butt when he refused to give them the addresses of Bote and Roman. The next day, Bote accused local politicians of trying to "punish" his station for its critical editorials. The police gave the station protection but did not identify who was responsible for the threats.
Journalists Philip Salarda, Vic Madridenio and Boy Manangquil of radio DXCP in General Santos (on Mindanao island) were accused of being "communist rebels" in an unsigned leaflet circulated in November. It urged citizens to report their subversive activities to the police. The three journalists said they were living in fear of reprisals.
A funeral wreath was delivered to the home of Yolanda Sotelo-Fuertes, the Daily Inquirer’s correspondent in the northern city of Baguio, on 27 December, two days after she received death threats by phone and telephone text message. She linked the threats to her recent articles about clandestine gambling in the region. She filed a complaint with the police who gave her protection.
Harassment and obstruction
House of representatives deputy speaker Visayas Raul Gonzales presented a "right of response" bill (House Bill No. 5774) in early March that would force a news media to broadcast or publish - within one day - the response of anyone who was the subject of a critical report in that media. Failure to comply would be punishable by a fine of 150 euros for the first violation, 300 euros for the second, 450 euros for the third and a prison term for the person in charge for the fourth. In an explanatory note, Gonzales said news media must be held responsible as they had the power to "make or break" a public figure. An identical bill (Senate Bill No. 2110) was presented in the senate by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, a member of the ruling party like Gonzales. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) launched a campaign against the bill in October, arguing it would enable the authorities to kill important articles and suppress the right to a free press. The bill had still not been passed at the end of the year.
Three masked gunmen burst into DXRM-Radyo Natin in Tandag, in Surigao del Sur province (on Mindanao island), on 14 March and caused extensive damage. The daily Philippines Star said they tied up three employees, including a journalist and a presenter, and splashed hydrochloric acid and petrol over equipment. The communist rebels and the army blamed each other for this attack and the attempted murder of the station manager the previous month. The military portrayed it as part of rebel effort to exact "revolutionary tax." Local spokesmen for the guerrillas alleged that Rep. Prospero Pichay was taking revenge for the frequent criticism he had received from the station. The radio station had angered some local government members by criticising them openly on the air. Federal investigators concluded in April that local politicians were behind the March attack. Suspects were named, but the police had made no arrests by the end of the year.
The governor of Lanao del Norte province on Mindanao island, Imelda Dimaporo, wrote to President Arroyo in early May calling for radio DXIC-Iligan to be investigated for "sedition" because it broadcast interviews on 24 April with the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Abdurahman "Commander Bravo" Macapaar. Claiming the station was known for its links with the MILF, the governor said its licence should also be suspended or withdrawn. Station manager Ramil Emborong said his journalists had just broadcast Commander Bravo’s comments without in any way endorsing them.
Arsonists set fire on 18 May to the studios of Radio Natyn in Baganga, in Davao Oriental province (on Mindanao island), destroying most of the equipment. The police blamed the communist rebels. But speaking on condition on anonymity, a member of Radio Natyn’s staff said the rebels had no reason to attack the station.
A home-made bomb went off outside the studios of local radio station Bombo Radyo in Cagayan de Oro City on Mindanao island on 21 May, damaging its antenna. The police said the place chosen to set off the bomb suggested it was meant to intimidate but not kill any of the journalists inside. The station’s facade was machine-gunned in 2002.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), which has been accused by the army of supporting the communist rebels, accused military and university authorities of hounding some of its members at the end of June. The guild said at least three college publications had been banned under the Campus Journalism Act of 1991 and four student newspapers were being monitored by intelligence agencies. Members of the security forces also reportedly ransacked the office of the fanzine Catalyst at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in 2003.
The government denied wanting to restrict press freedom on 17 August, after President Arroyo was accused of trying prevent a commercial TV station from screening an interview with a fugitive opposition senator and former colonel, Gregorio Honasan, the alleged mastermind of an abortive coup attempt in July. The journalist who interviewed Honasan said she had been the target of threats and intimidatory measures on the part of the president, who had accused her of "abetting to rebellion." A presidential aide rejected the accusation against Arroyo and said she had personally met with the TV station’s directors to assure them of her government’s resolve to protect press freedom.
President Arroyo on 18 August banned the broadcasting of a speech by opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson accusing the president and her husband of corrupt practices, in particular, the laundering of 320 million pesos through the Laulhati foundation, of which the president’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, is a member. The Tribune newspaper said President Arroyo personally called ABS-CBN chief Gabriel Gabby Lopez to threaten the network with the suspension of its licence if the speech was carried live. Many other TV and radio stations were also threatened. Civilian and military officials afterwards denied wielding any control or pressure on media executives.
National police chief Hermogenes Ebdane Jr reported on 18 August that journalists who had been in contact - intentionally or otherwise - with "enemies of the state," including the authors of the recent coup attempt, had been placed surveillance. He said this was an "internal security" measure aimed at identifying journalists who were politically implicated with the rebels. His comments were retracted the next day. Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the government guaranteed that the authorities would never trouble any journalists who were just doing their job.
Jose Galario, the mayor of the southern city of Valencia, banned local radio station DXMV-Radyo Ukay on 17 September, claiming that it was operating without official accreditation. He had been accusing the station of "political defamation" in its local news reporting for several months. The day the mayor issued his ban, the station decided to broadcast nothing but music, but it resumed normal programming the next day. The mayor lifted his ban on 22 September after reaching an agreement with executives of the University of Mindanao Broadcasting Network (UMBN), which owns the station. The accord stipulated that presenter Arlyn Ayon, the main target of the mayor’s criticism, would no longer be heard on the air. Ayon, who was not consulted during the negotiations, resigned. Journalists’ associations condemned UMBN’s decision to negotiate with the mayor. A spokesman for the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said: "The message is clear. If you say or write anything that doesn’t please Mayor Galario, you lose your job."
Gunmen on 12 October ransacked Radyo Natin 91.1 in Mangagoy, near Bislig in Surigao del Sur province (on Mindanao island), using acid to damage studio equipment, as in the attack in March on Radyo Natin in Tandag. The army blamed the communist rebels, who denied any involvement.
After the announced end of a three-year moratorium on executions, President Arroyo’s office on 9 December banned the press from interviewing prisoners who have been sentenced to death. The president’s spokesman referred to article 11 of the criminal code which drastically limits access to prisoners awaiting execution.