In Valencia, Mayor Gags Critical Commentator

Apr. 06, 2006

Joash Dignos, a commentator critical of the mayor, said he continued broadcasting because he thought that was the only way to prevent the official from harming him. I had to continue it, to inform the people about every step he was doing, he said. It was my refuge.

Story and pictures by Grace Cantal-Albasin

Dignos steps out of his station under the watchful eye of Galario's men. VALENCIA CITY A radio station was ordered closed by the mayor of this city on Wednesday, who claimed that the station had been operating without a business permit.

But witnesses said the target of the mayors ire was a commentator of the station who had been very critical of him.

Mayor Jose Galario Jr. and his men stormed DXVR, a station of Radio Mindanao Network, at past 9 oclock in the morning on Wednesday after Joash Dignos, the anchorman of the Kuskos Batikos program, refused to stop broadcasting his program despite an earlier closure order by Galario.

Dignos said he continued broadcasting because he thought that was the only way to prevent Galario from harming him. I had to continue it, to inform the people about every step he was doing, Dignos said. It was my refuge.

Dignos said his knees were literally shaking when he saw Galarios firearm but he had to act like he was not scared and continued with his broadcast until Francisco Gamboa, the police chief of Bukidnon, arrived and interceded. Gamboa spoke to Galario and Dignos to pacify the rising tension.

The parties have two opposing claims and I am planning to talk to them and then also invite Governor Jose Ma. Zubiri to help resolve the conflict, and if they could not agree on the basic points then they should resort to the court. In the meantime, we will try to find a way to make both parties could meet halfway, Gamboa said.

Dignos in his boothGalario insisted that he was just invoking his right to implement the law that allows closure of any establishment without a business permit. He said he was not closing down the station itself, just the commercial and commentary broadcasts.

He complained that his side was not being heard and that Dignos is just using press freedom as a decoy for his political agenda against me. Galario also has a program in another radio station here.

Dignos said he would file administrative charges against Galario for threatening to kill him.

Anna Lyn Somoza, an RMN staff, disclosed that she heard Galario said Come out here so I can kill you. She also said one of Galarios men took the tape recorder they had placed by a wall to record Galarios remarks.

This was not the first time Galario had ordered a station padlocked. In 2003, he also ordered DXMV, also of this city, closed.

Despite Galarios closure order, the network will continue operating on Thursday but without commercial and commentary programs. Only music would be played on the air, said James Jadormio, RMNs area manager.

Jadormio said the network was concerned that violence might ensue if it continued broadcasting Dignoss program. We dont want any violence. For sure, if Dignos will continue with his commentary program, his supporters will gather again to protect him, Jadormio said.

Dignos is known for his hard-hitting commentary against Galario. Among the issues he constantly tackled are alleged corruption and the vigilante-style killings in the city. Some Valencia folk, however, believed that Dignos had been too harsh and disrespectful.

A crowd forms outside the stationThe Philippines is the most murderous country in the world for journalists, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said last year. While the country is second only to Iraq in terms of killed journalists, most of the deaths here were cases of murders. And Radio commentators have been common targets.

Of 22 journalists murdered in connection with their work in the Philippines since 2000, 17 were radio commentators from rural provinces who were shot and killed for what they said on the air, the CPJ said in a report titled On the Air, Under the Gun released in August last year.

This year, two journalists have been murdered. The National Union of Journalists of the
Philippines, in its monitoring, lists 75 killed journalists since democracy was restored in 1986. It also noted that more journalists died under the Arroyo government than under any other administration.

Broadcasting from remote areas where the power of radio is strong and the rule of law weak, boisterous commentators are being gunned down in record numbers, CPJ said in its report.

The report said that many Filipino journalists have pointed to problems within the media community itself. They complained about an absence of professional standards and ethics among some broadcast journalists, particularly block-timers who lease airtime from station owners. An ineffective broadcast regulator with toothless enforcement powers, they said, contributes to a climate in which violence is the primary means of accountability.

It pointed out that the violence against broadcasters highlights the larger crisis of crime and corruption in the
Philippines. Government officials are suspected of involvement in half of the murder cases. Little concrete legal action has been taken against the majority of suspects — despite misleading government data that classifies cases as solved at the mere identification of a suspect. Under threat from powerful local officials and warlords, witnesses to murders are frequently too fearful to testify, further impeding prosecution. (Grace Cantal-Albasin/

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