Baguio media join SC case to stop press freedom threat

NUJP- BAGUIO CITY – Media practitioners in this summer capital city signed on Monday a petition to intervene on a case filed by Manila-based media practitioners which seeks the aid of the Supreme Court to stop government agencies from continuously threatening press freedom. 

The sixteen journalists alleged in their petition-in-intervention for prohibition and injunction that they feel with equal effects the threats, intimidation, fear and apprehension as a result of government agencies move which they claimed serves as threat to press freedom and on their job to bring information to the public. 

The Baguio-based journalists identified the respondent government agencies as the offices of the Executive Secretary, Department of Justice (DoJ), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police including its Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) which continuously issue threats, warnings, advisories that are couched in a general language that affect journalists and media practitioners – not only in Manila – but in the whole country.

“The acts, threats, warnings, advisories, intimidation of the respondents produce the same, if not greater fear and chilling effect upon provincial press,” claimed the intervenors, whose intervention was pursuant to Rule 19, Section 2 of the Rules of Court. 

“If the said act of respondents could be committed against major and leading national media outlets and companies and leading journalists based in the Metro Manila area, it would be much easier for respondents and those under their command, to stifle press freedom in the provinces and inculcate fear upon members of the provincial press and small provincial media outfits,” added the intervenors, who are from seven local and national media.

Press freedom’ fight

The Baguio journalists claimed that their intervention is in-fact a fight against the government’s effort to stifle press freedom. 

While hundreds of kilometers away from Manila, the journalists clarified that they feel the threat among media after the Manila Hotel incident on November 29, 2007 as they defend that their media colleagues had done nothing wrong in covering the incident. 

“We would have done the same had we been there, or the same kind of incident happen in Baguio or the Cordilleras, as we feel it would have been part of our duty and function to gather the news and to report the same to the public who has the right to be informed,” the Baguio journalists reiterated. 

In supporting the petition, the said journalists claimed that the experiences of journalists in the Manila Pen who were manhandled by the government forces can happen to them hence they decided for the intervention.

“In fact, most of the media killed during the time of GMA were from the provinces. The threat and actuations by the respondents have widespread chilling effects on members of the provincial media. We want this threat to stop,” pointed out Franklyn Cimatu, one of the intervenors. 

The intervenors claimed in their petition that they do not aim the unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties, but provide the court more accurate’ view of the extent and effect of the acts of the respondents complained of and how it affects Philippine media, including those in the provinces who are more vulnerable on the said effects.   

Land mark twin cases vs. Media repression

It can be recalled that Manila-based journalists after the Manila Pen incident filed on January 28 two cases against government agencies for the continuing media repression. One case filed at the Supreme Court seeks for Prohibition, Injunction with Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) while another class suit against government agencies was filed at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati which prays for damages and TRO. 

The Baguio journalists who signed as petitioners-in-intervenors are Pablito Sanidad (Midland Courier), Arthur Allad-iw (Northern Dispatch), Renato Samuel Bautista (Baguio Sunstar Daily), Desiree Caluza and Franklyn Cimatu (Philippine Daily Inquirer), Artemio Dumlao and Fernando Zapata (Philippine Star), Dhobie De Guzman (ABS-CBN Northern Luzon), Thomas Picana (Manila Times), Martina Sales, Rimaliza Opina, and Ernesto Olson Jr. (Baguio Sunstar Daily), Brenda Dacpano, Cyrene Reyes, and Elina Velasco-Ramo (Northern Dispatch). 

The petition-on-intervention was signed by the Baguio journalists at the Laperal Building, Session Road of this city.  

Lawyers of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) of the Baguio-Cordillera chapter serve as counsel for the Baguio journalist. # By Arthur L. Allad-iw



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