DANECO row behind journalist’s killing, says colleagues

Dec. 23, 2013

By Mart Sambalud
Davao Today

TAGUM CITY – A local organization of journalists based here believed that the recent killing of journalist Rogelio “Tata” Butalid was connected to the intra-management conflict of the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative (DANECO).

In an interview with Davao Today, Gregorio Ybanez, President of the Davao del Norte Press and Radio Club (DNRPC) said that six of their colleagues have also been receiving death threats because of their “stinging” commentaries on the issue.

“Death threats were sent thru text messages; a bouquet of flowers from a funeral parlor was also delivered. Some of my colleagues also received a gift containing white candles and a matchstick,” Ybanez said.

The DANECO, an electric distributor covering the Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley provinces, had been split into two, with one group registered with the Cooperative Development Authority (DANECO-CDA) while the other remained with the National Energy Administration (DANECO-NEA).

August of this year, the Court of Appeals granted NEA the control over the electric cooperative, replacing the CDA. A referendum by member consumers on January next year would decide whether NEA’s control stays.

See Davao Today Story: NEA wins over CDA in DANECO board

Butalid was a known supporter of the NEA group and had spoken lately with the alleged use of the DANECO-CDA group of “fake receipts.”

He was also a known political ally of former Tagum City Mayor Rey Uy. He later joined the party of contender and current Mayor Allan Rellon, his college colleague in the student council and a close friend.

Meanwhile, Daneco-NEA General Manager Benedicto Ongking believes that “no justification will suffice for any killings.”

“We might agree or disagree on the present issues but to purge a life had never been an option,” said Ongking in a text message to Davao Today.

Ongking added that the killing of Butalid was an attempt to “sow fear” among the members-consumers and employees of DANECO-NEA. But, he said, Butalid’s assassins “failed in their plan to destroy DANECO-NEA as an institution.”

“We condemn in the strongest terms the killing of a good friend whose principles and intellect we humbly recognized and respected,” Ongking said.

Ybanez said the recent spate of killings in Tagum against members of the press has caused a damaging blow to the freedom of speech amongst media practitioners here.

“Butalid’s assassination is a landmark case in this city where the freedom to express one’s opinion and to comment on local issues, in print or broadcast, is a matter of life and death to a journalist,” Ybanez said in vernacular.

In the 1980’s, Noel Miranda, publisher of a local newspaper, was the first journalist to be killed in Davao del Norte province.

He added that Miranda, in his local dailies, wrote special reports on issues that involved gambling and illegal logging.

According to the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, Butalid is the 161st member of the media killed since 1986 and the 21st under the Aquino administration. (Mart D. Sambalud/davaotoday.com)

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