PNP Press Corps president harassed, threatened by cops

Policemen in the town of Pola, Oriental Mindoro, harassed and
threatened Noel Alamar, dzMM Radyo Patrol reporter and president of the PNP Press Corps, Thursday night.

Alamar, a native of Pola, said he and his wife, Roselle Aquino,
Southern Tagalog correspondent of the Manila Times, went home to attend the first death anniversary of his mother. When they arrived, he said several town mates told him about Chief Inspector Telesforo Domingo’s alleged partisanship.

He said he immediately called up Chief Superintendent Paul Mascarinas, Mimaropa regional police director, and Oriental Mindoro police chief, Senior Superintendent Sonny Ricablanca, who said they would ask Domingo to give his side of the allegations.

Alamar said when Domingo showed up at his house, it was obvious the police chief had been drinking. Domingo merely asked, “Sino ka ba (Who are you)?” then left.

Later, when Alamar went to the house of mayor-elect Dodjie Panganiban, he saw Domingo and other policemen, none of who were in uniform although they were armed with high-powered firearms.

When Alamar tried to take video footage of this apparent violation of regulations, he said Domingo threatened to shoot him and seized his camera. The police chief also threatened to arrest Alamar and charge him with obstruction of justice.

Alamar, in phone conversations with NUJP, said the tension subsided only after two teams from the Provincial Mobile Group arrived and after incumbent Pola Mayor Alex Aranas intervened.

As of this writing, Alamar said he planned to go to the Pola police
station to talk to Domingo and recover his camera. He added that he was also likely to file charges against the police chief.

Alamar is also a member of the NUJP.

References:
NUJP-IFJ Media Safety Office
Rowena Paraan, Executive Coordinator
JB Deveza, Coordinator for Mindanao

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NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES (NUJP) STATEMENT

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemns the attempted assassination of Kalinga broadcaster Jerome Tabanganay on Friday and demand that authorities act immediately to arrest not only the perpetrators but, most importantly, the masterminds.

It seems not even the optimism the May 10 elections were supposed to bring is enough to give at least some breathing space from the culture of impunity that has made the Philippines the most dangerous place for journalists to work in.

Reports from the northern Luzon province said Tabanganay, 44, of the Radyo ng Bayan station in Kalinga province was wounded when a gunman shot him at close range as he reported for work to host his regular 7-9 a.m. program “Agenda,” which regularly criticizes crime and corruption.

As he stepped into the station, a man approached Tabanganay and asked his name twice. Sensing trouble, the broadcaster ran into the station as the gunman fired four times, hitting him in the knee and back of the right leg.

Regino Wacas, president of the Kalinga Media Club (KAMEC), was winding up his program “Dateline Balbalan” at the same station when he heard the gunfire and rushed to bring his colleague, who was shouting for help, to a safer place inside the facility so they could call for help.

Colleagues later learned that the would-be assassin was one of two men onboard a motorcycle who had apparently been waiting for Tabanganay to arrive.

The continued attacks on the press even as we wait for the most murderous administration for the Philippine media – it was under its watch that 100 of the 137 media workers murdered since 1986 were killed – to step down should serve as a challenge to the incoming government to take concrete actions to set things right by ensuring the killings end and all those responsible are brought to justice.

To do less would be to help perpetuate the impunity that continues to make a mockery of all our claims to being a democracy.


For Reference:

Nonoy Espina

Vice Chairman

09088650213

Rowena Paraan

NUJP-IFJ Media Safety Office

Executive Coordinator

09104950095

IFJ Demands No Interference in Maguindanao Massacre Trials

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) remains deeply worried about the risks of continuing political interference in the trials of those accused of involvement in the Maguindanao massacre in the southern Philippines last November, even as the Philippines Government has reversed its contentious decision to drop charges against two key suspects.

Yesterday, Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra was quoted as saying that he is “now convinced insofar as Zaldy Ampatuan and Akmad Ampatuan are concerned, that there is probable cause to pursue the case against them,” according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an IFJ affiliate.

His comments reverse his decision on April 21 to drop murder charges against the pair for their alleged roles in the murder of 58 people, including 32 journalists and media workers, in Maguindanao on November 23.

“The IFJ is outraged that Alberto Agra sought to meddle in the charges against these two key suspects, and demands that authorities in the Philippines ensure that charges relating to the pair – and all other 194 suspects – be fairly tested in court without any political interference,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

Zaldy is Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and a brother of Andal Ampatuan Jr, the main suspect in the massacre. Akmad is Vice-Governor of Maguindanao and Andal’s cousin.

Those killed were travelling in convoy to lodge candidacy papers for Ismael “Toto” Mangudadatu to run for Maguindanao governor against the Ampatuans.

According to a report from the NUJP, state prosecutors noted publicly that Agra’s move to drop the charges could not have been based on consideration of the extensive evidence presented against the two accused, and suggested political interference in the judicial process.

In the tense lead-up to national and presidential elections on May 10, the effort to drop the charges angered local and international journalists’ organisations, which noted the Ampatuan family’s support for the Government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and its involvement in voting irregularities that benefited Arroyo in 2004 and 2007.

“As the election draws near, we further call on all candidates and future power-holders to make a public pledge to take full responsibility for ensuring justice is done, and seen to be done, and that they end the culture of impunity for the killings of journalists in the Philippines,” Park said.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries worldwide

New President must dismantle “media predators” and stop impunity

The inclusion of government militias as one of the international top predators of journalists must serve as a wake-up call for the new government to exert political will to immediately dismantle them and show that the government is there to deliver justice to their victims,  the human rights monitor Barug Katungod Mindanao said.

Bishop Felixberto Calang, convenor of Barug Katungod Mindanao, said the report of the Reporters Without Borders is an alarm that must shake the incoming administration after the May 10 elections to act decisively on the existence of militias that serve at the behest of local politicians who themselves have become warlords.

The Reporters Without Borders, in time for the observance of the World Press Freedom Day, in a report named the Philippine militia as one of the treats to Filipino journalists, citing as an example the Ampatuan Massacre that killed 32 journalists on November 23 last year.

It was also the most gruesome pre-election related act of violence in a single day. It was blamed on the Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao, headed by Datu Andal Ampatuan, governor of the Province, and his sons who also hold public offices.

“These predators of press freedom have the power to censor, imprison, kidnap, torture and, in the worst cases, murder journalists,” the Reporters Without Borders said.

For Calang, acting on this with a sense of urgency will not only save the Philippines from international shame but also lives.

“This is a challenge that must be taken with a great sense of urgency and political will. The new government must show that it is not a clone of the present administration—one that tolerates violence and culture of impunity by cleansing itself and its minions of the responsibility over cases of human rights violations,” Calang said.

The new administration, he said, must start where the Arroyo government stopped and failed: to end the culture of impunity and prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations under 9 years of the regime.

“While the world have seen how the suspects of the Ampatuan Massacre were supposedly jailed, the hands of President Arroyo are almost clandestinely working to free them out of jail—them who are the reasons why she headed the most distrusted administrations in recent history,” Calang.

The culture of impunity, Calang said, thrives in a condition where the government promotes political patronage, allows the militarization of the civilian bureaucracy including the national budget, and uses foreign military aid for recruiting and training paramilitary groups and targeting civilians in failed counterinsurgency campaigns.

“The logic is simple. A president like Gloria Macapagal-Arroto who is hugely indebted to a warlord like the Ampatuans will fail in curbing the violence that the clan is espousing. And the Ampatuans are not only the warlords of Mindanao and of the Philipines. This only means one thing—that there is no hope that the justice will be served to all victims of human rights violations under the watch of the president,” Calang.
Calang added: “Press freedom is a fundamental freedom especially under repressive administrations. It should be a shame for the Arroyo government that in a country touted by many as having the most vibrant and free press in Asia after the Marcos Dictatorship, it has become the most dangerous place for journalists in the world. This will serve as one of the catastrophic legacies of the Arroyo government in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Agra reversal proves value of vigilance

Acting justice secretary Alberto Agra’s reversal of his ill-conceived resolution absolving two members of the powerful Ampatuan clan of charges over the November 23 massacre of 58 persons, including 32 of our colleagues, proves both the value of and the continued need for vigilance.

News reports quoted Agra on Wednesday as saying that he is “now convinced insofar as (suspended ARMM governor) Zaldy Ampatuan and (acting Maguindanao vice governor) Datu Akmad Ampatuan are concerned, that there is probable cause to pursue the case against them.”

The reversal of the resolution is, doubtless, a welcome development. No thanks, however, to Agra.

Indeed, if anything, all credit for the reversal should go to the families of the victims, their lawyers, the media community, and not least, the state prosecutors and the people in general who rightly railed against the obscenity of what could have been nothing but another ham-fisted attempt by this administration to let political expediency trump the rule of law, as it has done throughout its nine years of existence.

It was clear, as the prosecutors themselves pointed out, that there was no way Agra’s original resolution clearing the two Ampatuans could have been based on his supposed appreciation of the voluminous evidence a mere day after meeting with some of the victims’ relatives to assure them that he had yet to make up his mind.

The immediate and rousing anger that greeted his original decision were a clear enough signal that we would not be robbed of justice for this grievous crime, not just against the press, for whom the Ampatuan massacre was the single worst attack in history, but against the Filipino people and humanity.

If anything, he and his masters really had no choice. Anything short of reversal would have undoubtedly unleashed a firestorm that would sweep them away.

But this is, as yet, no time to ease up on vigilance. There have been persistent reports of continuing efforts to short cut the judicial process and spring more of the influential suspects.

No, Agra’s reversal does not let him or his masters off the hook yet.

Our demand remains the same. It is time for him and, yes, this administration to step aside and leave the administration of justice in a land too long deprived of it to more honorable men and women.

Nestor Burgos Jr.

Chairperson

0917.725.6333

Nonoy Espina

Vice Chairperson

0908.865.0213

Sonny Fernandez

Secretary General

0908.325.9620