Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 21      July 3, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines

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Burning of Community Radio Station Blamed on Soldiers, Condemned as �Media Repression�

BY BULATLAT
Posted 2:05 p.m. July 3, 2006

Media groups expressed outrage over the burning of a community radio station in Cagayan province, which was blamed on soldiers of the 17th Infantry Battalion whose detachment was only a kilometer away from the site.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) condemned the burning as an attack to press freedom and the people�s right to communicate. 

Media groups, with Radio Cagayano station manager Susan Mapa (third from left), condemn the burning of the community radio in a press conference in Quezon City, July 3.               PHOTO BY WENG CARRANZA-PARAAN

NUJP spokesperson Jose Torres, Jr. called on the Arroyo administration to find and punish the perpetrators, even as he said their group claims government culpability on the crime because of its inaction on other attacks on media. 

The station of dwRC 90.1 FM Radyo Cagayano, located at the town proper of mountainous Baggao was burned by eight armed men wearing ski masks at 2 a.m., Sunday.  The suspects took the cellphones of the station manager and five staff, whom they blindfolded and tied up and forced out before setting the station on fire, using two gallons of gasoline. 

At a press conference this morning, dwRC station manager Susan Mapa, cried as she recalled how the armed men wrapped her malong (blanket) around her head.  She said some of the suspects were in camouflage and combat boots and carried M-16 armalite rifles.  Mapa said she heard one of the suspects referred to their leader as �sir.�

Mapa said the five other radio station staff were injured as the suspects tied them up and forced them down on the floor. The five were identified as: Arnold Agraan, Joy Marcos, Richard Ayudan, Arlyn Arella, and Armalyn Baddua. She recounted that the six of them ran toward the nearby parish convent as the station was set ablaze while the suspects escaped.

An estimated P1.5 million worth of radio equipment were razed, and the personal belongings of the staff worth P39,130.

Mapa said that the police investigators led by SP03 Jose Durwin found a magazine of a .45 handgun and two spent bullets. �Gustong palabasin ng mga nanunog na nagtatago kami ng baril,� she said.  (The perpetrators wanted to make it appear that we were keeping guns at the station.)

Mapa questioned the delayed reaction of the Philippine National Police (PNP), whose headquarters were only 300 meters away from the station. The police arrived at the convent at 5 a.m., three hours after the incident, and merely interviewed them. The investigators went up to the site later at 9 a.m.

Brig. Gen. Jaime Buenaflor, civil relations chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has denied the allegations in a radio interview.

Bianca Miglioretto, vice president of the Women�s International Network of Asia Pacific and an official of the international network AMARC, said they will relay the news about the station�s burning to their 3,000 member stations. The community radio is a member of AMARC Asia Pacific.

�Community radio is one way of giving a voice to the voiceless..if this voice is taken away by burning the people�s community radio station, it is a grave violation  of their right to communicate,� said Miglioretto.

�We will start a campaign of protest to pressure the Philippine government to give justice to the people of Radyo Cagayano,� she added.  Bulatlat

 

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