ROXAS CITY – A text message circulated on Sunday night, alleging that three Capiz journalists had died and a fourth one was in critical condition after they figured in a vehicular accident, caused alarm among relatives and friends.
The text message said media men John Heredia, Gerry Pagharion and Edward Basilonia had been declared dead on arrival at the Capiz Emmanuel Hospital while Inquirer correspondent Felipe Celino was in critical condition.
Heredia is the president of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in Capiz. Pagharion is the editor of Capiz Times while Basilonia is publisher of the Capiz Chronicle and head of the Provincial Capitol Media Bureau.
“If it was meant as a joke, then it was a bad joke, to say the least, because it created unnecessary traumas to our relatives and friends”
The text message turned out to be a hoax as all four were in their homes sleeping.
The four issued a statement on Monday denouncing the text message.
They condemned “in strongest possible terms the text message that circulated in the evening of Aug. 31.”
“If it was meant as a joke, then it was a bad joke, to say the least, because it created unnecessary traumas to our relatives and friends,” they said.
They said the text message was “uncalled for and malicious,” especially in the wake of the killing of Capiz broadcaster Martin Roxas.
“If it was not a joke, was it meant to silence not only the four of us but also the whole media community in Capiz on issues affecting public interest? Was it meant to divert the media on the more pressing issues and eventually silence them?” the four asked.
They said they would continue to be impartial in writing news stories “in line with the democratic space we have gained since Edsa.”
“We call on our colleagues in media not to be intimated by this latest attack on press freedom. With God’s help, we shall triumph,” the statement said.
Cyril Simpas, station manager of dyOW Bombo in Roxas City, said he was among those who received the text message from an unknown sender using the number 09085664485.
After he received the text at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, Simpas said he tried calling the number but it could not be reached.
The unidentified sender also sent similar messages to provincial administrator Zoe Herrera, Roxas City administrator Ronald Amigo, IBC-dyJJ station manager Rexam Laguda and RMN-dyVR reporter Ebe Ballos. Ballos forwarded the message to station manager Eliezer Abarra of RMN-dyVR.
The four have been active in reporting the killing of Roxas, who was shot dead by one of two motorcycle-riding men along Bayot Drive in Roxas City, in the afternoon of Aug. 7.
Roxas was brought to the CEH where he was declared dead.
By Felipe V. Celino