Media groups to SOJ Remulla: Act to free Frenchie Mae, 2 other rights defenders

On the fourth anniversary of the Tacloban City raids, which resulted in the arrest of four human rights advocates and community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, collectively dubbed as the ‘Tacloban 5,’ media groups led by Altermidya Network sent a letter to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla to call for Cumpio’s immediate release from detention, along with human rights advocates Alexander Abinguna and Mariel Domequil.

The letter, signed by Altermidya Network, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines comes nearly a week after the official visit of Ms. Irene Khan, the United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the freedom of expression and opinion. During her ten-day visit, Ms. Khan visited Cumpio, Abinguna, and Domequil in Tacloban City Jail.

“As justice delayed is justice denied, I urge relevant authorities to either review the cases and dismiss the charges, or at a minimum expedite the trials with full due process,” Ms. Khan said during her exit statement last February 3.

In the letter, the media groups emphasized their “profound concern” over the prolonged detention of Cumpio, Abinguna, and Domequil on charges related to illegal possession of firearms and explosives, and terrorism financing, highlighting the need for a “comprehensive review” of their cases with the aim of their prompt dismissal.

The letter to Justice Sec. Remulla also outlined three key requests, including the impartial and thorough investigation of the weaponization of laws against journalists and critics, the promotion of press freedom, and a call on the Department of Justice to advocate for the repeal of “repressive laws,” notably the “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.”

The letter also noted that based on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2023 Prison Census, Frenchie Mae is currently the only journalist imprisoned in the Philippines.

“The prolonged detention of Cumpio, Domequil, and Abinguna, coupled with the broader issues of law weaponization and attacks on press freedom, highlight the need for immediate and decisive action from the DOJ. The DOJ can demonstrate the Philippines’ genuine commitment to upholding human rights and freedom of expression by addressing these concerns,” the groups said in their letter to Sec. Remulla.#