Media groups express concern over threats on Kidapawan journalist

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 16 Jan) – The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has joined its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), in expressing concern about reports of a threat against a journalist here.

Reports reaching NUJP said that a texter, who identified himself as a member of the Bagani, was tasked to “silence” Joy Francisco, publisher and editor-in-chief of Southern Voice Journal (SVJ), a weekly tabloid based in this city.

The text, using the mobile phone number 09214095902, was sent to two local radio reporters, one of them Abner Francisco, program director of Charm Radio and columnist of the SVJ, around 8:30 a.m. last Sunday.

When the reporters tried to call the sender, the phone was already out of reach.

It was not clear how the texter was able to get the personal numbers of the reporters.

The texter, a self-proclaimed assassin, told the journalists a contract had been put out for the killing of Francisco for a fee of P100,000.

In his text, he identified a certain Jun Obello, public affairs chief of North Cotabato 2nd district Representative Nancy Catamco, who allegedly met with a member of the Bagani to look for a gun-for-hire.

The Bagani, a group of armed natives believed tasked to run after the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) rebels in the hinterlands, was also identified as behind the killing in October 2011 of Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio in Arakan, North Cotabato.

After Francisco learned on Sunday of the alleged assassination plot, she went directly to the Kidapawan City police office to put on record the threat on her life.

The next day, Obello, who was told about Francisco’s statement, made a counter-blotter saying there is no reason to kill the journalist as she is “not a threat” to the candidacy of his employer, Catamco.

Catamco is seeking re-election this May.

Francisco, who has been in the media work for more than two decades, said the recent assassination plot against her is “nothing new.”

She said she expected the threats as some politicians, including Catamco, could not accept her hard-hitting commentaries.

The exchange of heated arguments between Francisco and Catamco started late December last year after Sr. Supt. Roque Alcantara, former Cotabato provincial police director, was relieved from his post.

Francisco, in her Free View column at SVJ, said that Alcantara’s transfer has something to do with the case filed against Obello for keeping an unlicensed firearm in May last year.

On January 4, Francisco spearheaded an indignation rally that condemned the relief of police officers in North Cotabato, which also included Supt. Renante Cabico, former Kidapawan City police director.

Francisco is one of the conveners of Cotabato Watch, a group of media and other civil society organizations in North Cotabato that claimed to be an anti-corruption watchdog.

But Obello believed otherwise.

Obello, in his regular weekly program aired over radio station DXND, said the rally was politically motivated and that Francisco and Cotabato Watch were used by one of Catamco’s political foes.

He also said Catamco’s refusal to renew subscription of the SVJ angered Francisco and has used it since then in “destroying” the congresswoman.

The IFJ and the NUJP, in a joint statement issued on Tuesday, have called on authorities to investigate the reported assassination plot against Francisco and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The IFJ reports that Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for media workers.

The group said over 160 journalists have been killed in the Philippines after freedom was restored in 1986.

The single worst media attack took place in November 23, 2009 where 58 people, 32 journalists included, were massacred in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)

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