The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines deplores the glaring impunity with which the state’s security forces increasingly violate people’s basic rights.
We will mince no words here. What happened at the US embassy on Wednesday, when a weaponized police van was used against protesters, was a clear case of violence by the state against its own people.
Members of media were not spared.
Wences Balinguit of Southern Tagalog Exposure was arrested by the Manila Police District despite having identified himself as a journalist. And Jaja Necosia of Kilab Multimedia was shooting video of a policeman assaulting one of the passengers in a jeepney that was already leaving the area when he was punched by the officer. Pictures of this incident indicate the officer was the same PO3 Franklin Kho who ran over protesters with the police van.
Video footage of the dispersal’s aftermath also showed heavily armed SWAT personnel heckling reporters and trying to block cameramen covering the arrest of an injured protester.
Earlier in the day, in Antipolo City, reporter Olan Bola of radio station dzBB found himself arrested and slapped with obstruction of justice charges when he tried to interview a security guard and an officer identified as PO2 Puruganan while covering a hit-and-run incident. Bola’s blood pressure shot up while he was being held at the Antipolo station and had to be taken to the Klinika Antipolo, where he was treated under police guard.
We have received other reports of state agents attempting to prevent journalists from doing their work and even threatening them if they persist.
All this, of course, is happening within the bigger picture of the wanton violation of that most basic right – to life – in a “war” in which human rights and due process are seen as nuisances and those supposed to serve and protect and enforce the laws are assured of immunity for any “collateral damage” they may cause. Where perception, no matter if based on misinformation or outright prevarication, is held as more important than the truth, and the truth-tellers treated as the enemy for belying the preferred narrative.
To be sure, impunity has been with us for a long, long time, fueled by official apathy toward violations of people’s rights and the aversion of government after government to dissent.
It is clear from where this impunity springs. We have always said that what leaders say or do not say, what they do or do not do, resound among those who believe in them and will often be taken as gospel truth or even marching orders.
Thus, the silence of past presidents to the wanton violation of rights helped fuel the impunity with which these rights were regularly violated by agents of the state and their cohorts. But never, and again we mince no words, have we ever had a leader, President Rodrigo Duterte, who has so openly dismissed human rights and repeatedly exhorted law enforcers that they are above the law, who has regularly and publicly wished death and mayhem on those he perceives as the enemy.
While we may demand – and we DO demand – an immediate investigation and swift action on these assaults on the freedoms of the press and free expression, even if our demands are met, so long as the signals emanating from the center of power continue to see the rights and liberties of the people as obstacles rather than ideals to be protected and expanded, we hold little hope that such gross disregard for basic rights will end soon.
NUJP Secretary General
NUJP Hotline 09175155991
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