Media groups and supporters held a biking event Sunday morning to commemorate the anniversary of the arrest of a journalist in Tacloban City on what they claim are trumped up charges.
Members of the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya), the International Association of Women in Radio and Television-Philippine Chapter, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) biked around Quezon City to call for the dropping of charges against Eastern Vista executive director Frenchie Mae Cumpio.
Cumpio was arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives by the Philippine National Police (PNP), allegations uniformly leveled against arrested critics of the Rodrigo Duterte government.
The event also called for the immediate release of Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem whose case was dismissed by the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court just last Friday due to inconsistencies in the statements submitted by police witnesses.
Salem was arrested by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the PNP last December 10, International Human Rights Day.
She remains in jail, however, pending the issuance of a release order by the court.
The bike event started at the University of the Philippines and made its first stop at ABS-CBN where a brief program was held.
The bikers pedaled on to the statue of press freedom icon Joaquin Roces and then to the Commission on Human Rights were programs were also held.
Altermidya national coordinator Rhea Padilla and Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity convenor Tonyo Cruz vowed to continue their struggle to free Cumpio and Salem.
ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union president Jon Villanueva for his part thanked the media organizations and press freedom advocates for their continuing support to the beleaguered network.
Members of the Photojournalists Center of the Philippines welcomed the bikers at ABS-CBN.
The NUJP meanwhile hailed Mandaluyong RTC Presiding Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio’s cancellation of the search warrant used against Salem that “suffered from vagueness.”
“Even as we eagerly await Icy’s (Salem) return to freedom, we denounce the gross injustice she was subjected to by the agents of a government bent on suppressing the independent media and freedom of expression,” the NUJP said.
In a separate statement, the NUJP demanded the release of Cumpio it said was arrested and is being detained on spurious charges.
“The ordeal of Frenchie Mae is part of the increasing persecution of the critical media by the forces of a government so intolerant of criticism and dissent that the mere exercise of democratic rights is enough for one to be branded an ‘enemy of the state,’” the NUJP said. # (Report and photos by Raymund B. Villanueva)