Radio station accuses Philippines mayor of harassment

TACLOBAN CITY - A town mayor in Eastern Samar province has been accused of harassment and abuse of authority after she ordered the closure of a local radio station owned by a politician last week.

Oras Mayor Viviane Alvarez issued an order stopping the operations, effective on April 30, of Radyo Natin FM for lack of a business permit and permit to operate from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

Jessa Oraller, station manager of Radyo Natin, said the mayor's actions were a form of harassment.

On April 30, the radio station complied with the mayor's order and went off the air.

"This is pure harassment and suppression of press freedom," said Oraller.

Oraller said the radio station management was ready to discuss the mayor's demands but was overtaken by the closure order.

The radio station, Oraller said, applied for a business permit at the mayor's office but for still unknown reasons the mayor refused to issue the permit.

Prior to her April 30 order, Alvarez had demanded that the radio station produce documents that would show that it is allowed to operate by the NTC, is acknowledged by Kapisanan ng Mga Brodkaster as a member and holds a franchise from Manila Broadcasting Co., the radio station's parent firm.

Oraller admitted that the NTC permit that the radio station expired in October last year. She said the radio station was trying to renew the permit but was delayed by Supertyphoon "Yolanda."

The radio station is owned by Teodulo Coquilla, a former congressman.

Oraller said the radio station earned the ire of Alvarez after it reported that the mayor's husband, Neil, was on the payroll of the municipal government, receiving P22,000 a month as the mayor's private secretary.

Alvarez said the appointment of her husband, who was mayor for nine years until 2010, was not illegal.

"The position requires nothing but trust and confidence," the mayor said in a phone interview.

"To say that I abused my authority and that I violated press freedom is definitely foul," said the mayor.

"They were critical of my administration but I never asked them to stop broadcasting until today due to their failure to seek a business permit and lack of a NTC permit to operate," Alvarez added.