On July 2 at 2 AM, eight armed men wearing ski-masks burnt down Radyo Cagayano, a community radio station in the Cagayan province of the Philippines. They used gasoline in big bottled water containers which they poured over the equipment and the structure before setting it afire. The arsonists, some of them wearing combat boots, military type fatigues and divers’ watch often used by the Philippine military were also armed with M-16 assault rifles and 45 caliber handguns. They used ropes to hogtie the victims and articles of clothing to gag them.
The station, which broadcast from the mountainous town of Baggao some 500 kilometers north of Manilla, was put up through the joint efforts of the town mayor and a group of local farmers. It had also received state help through the congressional representatives of the Left-wing Bayan Muna party.
The radio station employees suspect the perpetrators to be members of the 17th Infantry Battalion of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
The building was totally razed to the ground, including all the pieces of equipment therein. The black draft created by the flames also severely injured Joy Marcos, a staff of the station, on his face, and Arlyn Arella and Armalyn Baddua, also staffs of the station, on their feet and legs. Another staff Richard Ayudad was bruised on his neck where the perpetrators poked it with a handgun. The arsonists also took all of their mobile phone units.
The incidents of attack over free media in the Philippines have grown dramatically over the past few years, especially since Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became President in February 2001. Since then 42 journalists have been murdered, which amounts to 80 the number of journalists killed after the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos (1986).
At a news conference in Manila Monday, AMARC official Bianca Miglioretto said Radyo Cagayano was a member of AMARC Asia Pacific, a regional wing of the international community radio association.
"Community radio is one way of giving a voice to the voiceless," she said. "If this voice is taken away by burning the people’s community radio station, it is a grave violation of their right to communicate."
Miglioretto added: "We will start a campaign of protest to pressure the Philippine government to give justice to the people of Radyo Cagayano."
AMARC is calling upon the President and the Government of the Philippines to put an end over the oppression of freedom of expression in that country with immediate effect. They also call upon the government of the Philippines to reimburse the losses suffered by Radio Cagayano due to the attack and bring to justice the arsonists.
For more information, go to www.asiapacific.amarc.org or contact:
Suman Basnet, Regional Coordinator
AMARC Asia Pacific, Kathmandu, Nepal email@example.com
The black draft created by the flames severely injured Joy Marcos, a staff of the station, on his face.
Members of AMARC (the World Association of Community Broadcasters) gathered alongside the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines deplored the burning down of Community Radio Station dwRC 90.1 FM Radyo Cagayano in the Philippines at a press conference on Monday, July 3rd, 2006.
The six radio station staff who were hogtied, terrorized, blindfolded and injured. Susan Mapa, second from left, is the station manager.