MANILA, Philippines – Seven Cagayan de Oro-based media personnel who were virtually trapped on Camiguin Island since the day before the May 10 elections, when they were attacked and threatened, finally left on Tuesday under police escort, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), which helped arrange their safe retrieval, said Tuesday.
The NUJP Safety Office in Mindanao identified the rescued media workers as Rene Abris, volunteer reporter of Hot FM 106.3 and writer of the weekly Azilam Review; Herbert Hugo and Hubert Dumaguis, a father and son television news team from Parasat TV 13, a local cable television channel; and Alvin Lovino and Altin Cabanog, also of TV 13; and Jinggoy Abanil of the Gold Star Daily.
Also with them was Rolando Bruno, Abris’ stringer and fellow writer at
Azilam Review, who was earlier reported as missing. Bruno went into hiding after he was accosted by unidentified men on his way to Cagayan de Oro to attend to a sick child. He sent Abris a text message shortly before noon of May 9 asking for help.
The Dumaguis tandem had gone to Barangay Pangaro in Catarman town the morning of May 9 to follow up a tip on alleged vote buying by local
officials. However, before they could take footage, they were mauled,
allegedly by Camiguin Governor Jurdin Jesus “JJ” Romualdo and several of his supporters.
Their equipment and some personal belongings were also taken by their assailants.
On hearing of the incident, Abris and Bruno rushed to the Catarman police station and filed a report from there. It was shortly after this that Bruno went missing.
Since then, the NUJP said it has “been in close touch with the threatened journalists to ensure their safety and help arrange their safe return from Camiguin.”
The organization said it remained “committed to helping (the media
personnel) take appropriate action against those responsible for harming and threatening them” and called on the Commission on Elections, the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Commission on Human Rights to “conduct a swift and impartial investigation into these incidents, which were not only a blatant assault on media workers whose only fault was to go about their duties to report on events and deliver information to their audiences, but also involved gross abuse of authority and violations of both election and criminal laws.”