Owner of closed Albay radio station cries foul

LEGAZPI CITY: The ownership of Zagitsit News FM vowed to continue fighting for press freedom and will not be cowed by political intimidation following the closure of the local radio station here on Monday, November 8.

Hermogenes “Jun” Alegre, owner and station manager of Zagitsit News FM, implicated Ako Bicol lawmaker Alfredo Garbin to the closure of the radio station.

Alegre, a well-known voice impersonator of President Rodrigo Duterte here, said that the closure of the radio station is politically motivated. He also pointed out that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered for the closure of the radio station even before the expiry date of its franchise on Nov. 19, 2021.

Alegre likewise challenged Garbin to admit his interference over the closure of the radio station that affected more than 25 employees.

“Be bold enough to admit that you’re the one behind this. Nata Zagitsit sana an nahiling mo? (Why did you single out Zagitsit?) Why not look into other stations like FoxFM owned by your ally? How about your very own station Radyo Oragon?” Alegre said.

“Is it legal to operate using several repeaters just to cover the whole Bicol region? When the closure order was served by NTC, we immediately shut down our operation as we are committed to abide by the rule of law.”

Alegre said that the NTC was apparently pressured by the Congress’ Legislative Franchises Committee, where Garbin is an influential member.

“You claimed that Zagitsit operated illegally for the past six years. Sorry, but we were not informed, notified nor reprimanded by NTC about any findings of possible violations after their regular annual inspections. Only now,” Alegre said.

“Ang dami mo pong sinasabi Cong., pero ayaw mong aminin na ikaw ang nagmaniobra ng lahat ng ito (You talk too much Cong., but you don’t want to admit that you maneuvered all of this).You used your influence and power as a member of the House of Legislative Franchise Committee and yet you don’t want to take responsibility for your action,” Alegre posted on his Facebook wall.

Alegre, a close political ally of incumbent Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, is running for a spot in the provincial board in the second congressional district of Albay.

Rosal, who is on his last term as mayor, filed a certificate of candidacy for governor of Albay. He is running against reelectionist Gov. Al Francis Bichara.

Garbin, on the other hand, is eyeing the mayoral post and is challenging the candidacy of former Mayor Geraldine “Gie” Rosal, the wife of the incumbent mayor.

The NTC regional office in Bicol served a cease-and-desist order (CDO) following the expiration of the temporary permit, absence of a transmitter link license, and violation of the terms and conditions of its provisional authority.

Samuel Sabile, officer in charge of NTC Bicol, said that the closure order was issued by the central office.

“We received the order on Monday morning where the respondent is directed to immediately cease from further operating its FM station, DWH1 FM using 100.3 megahertz,” Sabile said.

The closure order executed by NTC was in compliance with a directive from the House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises wherein the Ako Bicol party-list lawmaker is a member.

The House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises compelled the commission to explain why it has been allowing Zagitsit News FM to operate with business permit under the name of Hermogenes Alegre Jr., using the frequencies assigned by the Hypersonic Broadcasting Center Inc., the franchise permit holder.

The closure order that took effect on Monday against Zagitsit was only given until November 19, or 12 days to file a motion for reconsideration instead of 15 days.

“We were given a notice to explain and submit a motion for reconsideration until November 19 but to my surprise, the CDO was handed over on Monday,” Alegre said.

With the closure order of Zagitsit, Alegre said 25 personnel of the radio station were included in the statistics of the unemployed, while a big number of beneficiaries of their public affairs programs would be deprived of assistance regularly given through the radio station.

Alegre, however, said that the management is committed to abide by the law and find legal remedies to address the issue.

Alegre, a veteran broadcast journalist and reporter of the Manila Broadcasting Corp., said that they filed a 15-day extension for the motion for reconsideration which was approved by NTC.

Garbin, a member of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, in an interview with this reporter denied any involvement regarding the closure of Zagitsit News FM.

Garbin reiterated that the closure of Zagitsit News FM was executed by the NTC due to absence of franchise and illegally using the frequency of Hypersonic.

“The NTC order speaks for itself. Wala sila franchise and they were illegally using the frequency of Hypersonic. Purely violations of law,” Garbin said.

When asked about his comment regarding Alegre’s statement that several radio stations in Albay are freely operating illegally, Garbin said that there are two other radio stations closed down by NTC, one in Tabaco City, the Sky Radio FM owned by Board Member Glenda Ong-Bongao, and another one in Polangui, Albay.

Garbin said that Bongao sought for his assistance to revive the franchise but the lawmaker said he couldn’t do anything because it was closed down by NTC.

The Zagitsit News FM operated for six years and went through the annual inspections but was never been reprimanded nor cited for any violations.