Legislator refuses to comment on alleged threat against radio broadcaster

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – A legislator allegedly threatened a block-time radio broadcaster from Davao del Sur over the radio on 1 March 2009. But the congressman has refused to comment on the issue. Digos City is about 995 kms southeast of Manila.

Digos City-based radio blocktimer Marlan Malnegro told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) in a phone interview that he was monitoring news on radio at around 7:45 a.m. (local time) when he heard Davao del Sur 1st Dist. Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV issue a threat against him. The interview was aired over Charm Radio, which is owned by the Cagas family.

Bantay lang na si Marlan inig abot nako diha, piti gyud na siya (Marlan should watch out, he might get hurt when I come home),” Malnegro quoted Cagas, son of Davao del Sur governor Douglas Cagas, as saying.

Malnegro reported the incident to Digos City police on 2 March 2009.

Lawyer Clarence Joseph Zosa, the legislator’s chief of staff, told CMFR in a phone interview on 5 March 2009 that Cagas would not issue a comment since he was busy, Congressional sessions ending on 6 March 2009.

Malnegro, who hosts block-time radio programs over dxDS-Radio Ukay and Gold FM, told CMFR in a phone interview that the threat might be related to his work as the consultant on media and public relations for Digos City mayor Arsenio Latasa, a political rival of Cagas. He said Latasa belonged to the political party NPC (Nationalist People’s Coalition) while Cagas is a member Lakas-CMD (Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats), the current ruling political party in the Philippines.

Malnegro said his block-time programs are sponsored by the city government.

“Block timing” is a practice in radio broadcasting in the Philippines, where radio stations lease blocks of time to individuals who in turn generate money from their programs through advertisements, or through a sponsor. The practice of buying airtime for political or partisan purposes is quite common in the Philippine media.

On 25 October 2007, Malnegro along with fellow Radio Ukay broadcaster Ruben Oliverio had escaped an ambush by a motorcycle-riding gunman. The incident happened about 200 meters from their place of work after the two broadcasters had just finished their radio programs. Malnegro told CMFR the attack was “politically motivated,” triggered by the then ongoing campaign for village elections. Police in Digos City also said the attack may be related to their work in the media.

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