CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/2 February) – A local crew of GMA Network, Inc. said they were threatened on Wednesday by an irate village kagawad from one of the city’s hinterland barangays after they sought comments regarding what they suspected as a floating quarry that could have contributed to the floods that hit the city last year.
In his emailed statement Thursday, Nef Abdul Malik Luczon said he and colleagues Michael Tolang and Michael Cabulay were working on a documentary episode of “Ang Isyu Karon” on the aftermath of typhoon Sendong for GMA News & Public Affairs in Barangay Tuburan with leaders of the Higaonon tribal community. Luczon said the visit last Wednesday was their third time since May last year.
They were reportedly invited by the Higaonon tribal community headed by chieftain Ruel Villaverde who wanted to reveal the ongoing small-scale mining operation which tribesfolk believe might have something to do with the floods.
Luczon said that as they were about to go back, they passed by what appears to be a barge processing sand and gravel. Luczon opined that the way the barge was positioned, it appeared that the vessel was “blocking the natural path of the Iponan River.”
He said they were able to take footages of the barge at a closer range and was able to interview its caretaker.
The crew then decided to seek barangay officials to comment on what they had discovered.
Luczon said they were interviewing barangay chair Loresa Gaupan regarding the floating quarry when they heard a ruckus from the crowd, with someone raising his voice throwing insults at the crew.
Luczon admitted he lost his temper and started raising his voice at the person who started the disturbance. Later, he learned from their Higaonon host that the person was in fact a barangay kagawad identified as Roy Obsioma Yañez.
Luczon said his camera crew was able to film his altercation with Yañez. The interview with the barangay chair, however, did not push through because of the spat.
Luczon quoted Yañez threatened as saying: “Panghawa diha, laparohon ta hinuon mo og burak (Leave or I’ll slap you with a machete).” A burak is an indigenous bladed tool, similar to a machete, used commonly to chop firewood.
Luczon said Yañez did not stop with the threat and kept hurling invectives and threatening words as they walked out of the village hall.
Cameraman Tolang said that Yañez further added by saying, “Kanang ga video video dinha tiraduron ko man hinoon na (The one taking the video, I might want to hit you with a slingshot).”
“The tribal leaders then brought us to there council hall and kept us under their protection. As we were about to leave, they asked us to stay longer since they noticed that the brother of the kagawad was seen waiting for us,” Tolang said.
They were thus forced to stay in the council hall from 4 until 7 p.m. “After that they then escorted us out with maybe 12 tribal members armed with machetes until we were safely out of the area,” Tolang said.
Luczon said the tribal council of the Higaonons who hosted their visit immediately executed a resolution about the incident which they annexed for recording purposes at the Lumbia Police Precinct.
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Cagayan de Oro Chapter (NUJP-CdO) chair and ABS-CBN Regional News Group news manager Arturo Bonjoc Jr. said the incident was an outrage and demanded that the “elected public servant” be investigated.
“We condemn this in the strongest possible terms and let the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) investigate this elected public servant,” said Bonjoc.
In a text message, NUJP Mindanao safety officer JB Deveza said they will help the journalists in filing cases against the village official.
“We condemn the incident, especially in light of Sendong. We will support Nef if he decides to press charges,” said Deveza. (Cong B. Corrales and Erwin Mascarinas / MindaNews)