As a multimedia group, Kodao publishes news stories, opinion essays, cartoons, photos and others here.

TIMELINE of the struggle for ABS CBN

The Senate conducted a hearing on the ABS-CBN issue last Monday, February 24, obviously in reaction to the series of mass actions calling for the network’s franchise renewal. The Senate Committee on Public Services, chaired by Senator Grace Poe, again showed the Upper House’s more independent character than the House of Representatives that still refuses to schedule hearing on the 11 bills pending before its Committee on Legislative Franchises. And while Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano called the Senate hearing “a meaningless and brown-nosing spectacle,” even his fellow administration allies were compelled to attend and expressed support for ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal at the end of the hearing. Resource persons from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Securities and Exchange Commission, National Telecommunications Commission and the Department of Justice also clarified that ABS-CBN did not violate laws that warrant its closure.

The giant media network may now heave a sigh of relief, its position and future clearer than when the issue blew up middle of January.

Here is a timeline of how organizations have been helping the network weather its worst storm since it was sequestered during Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law:

December 3, 2019

– President Rodrigo Duterte threatend he will “see to it that you’re (ABS CBN) out.”

December 30, 2019

– Duterte tells ABS-CBN management in a speech to just sell the company.

January 16, 2020

-The Manila Times reports that Solicitor General Jose Calida plans to file a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court questioning ABS CBN’s franchise.

January 17, 2020

-The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) holds a Black Friday protest at the Boy Scout Monument in Quezon City to denounce the threat. They People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya), Defend Jobs Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), members of the ABS CBN Rank and File Employees Union (RFEU), the Photojournalists Center of the Philippines (PEP), Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), Rappler, and progressive organizations under Bagong Alyansang Makabayan joins the action. The entire Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives attend. Several ABS CBN reporters participate.

January 18, 2020

-The NUJP launches its one million signature campaign on the online petition platform change.org. Within 24 hours, 100 thousand signatures were gathered as several ABS CBN artists ask their fans for support.

January 24, 2020

-The NUJP and the ABS CBN-RFEU hold a “silent protest” at the network’s Sgt. Esguerra gate. Several network reporters join. Participants light candles and distribute petition forms. Defend Jobs Philippines, Altermidya and CEGP attend.

January 31, 2020

-The NUJP, PCP members and several ABS CBN fans gather at the Boy Scout Monument and later proceed to one of the network’s Mother Ignacia Avenue gates to conduct its third Black Friday protest. Altermidya, CEGP, CAP and Defend Jobs Philippines join.

February 7, 2020

-The NUJP holds its fourth Black Friday protest at the employee’s Mother Ignacia gate and gather hundreds of signatures from employees. Meanwhile, the NUJP and other employees gather petitions inside the network since January 18. The fourth Black Friday protest was attended by ABS CBN RFEU and Altermidya.

February 10, 2020

-Calida files quo warranto petition at the Supreme Court. NUJP and Altermidya denounce the solicitor general’s action, as well as his harassment of ABS CBN reporter Mark Navallo. NUJP calls for a quick reaction protest action at the Boy Scout Monument. Altermidya, ABS CBN RFEU, CEGP, PCP, Rappler, Kadamay, Defend Jobs Philippines and other progressive organizations under Bayan attend.

February 11-14, 2020

-Media groups, schools and other organizations issue statements issue statements supporting ABS CBN and denouncing threats against the network. Several newspapers publish editorials supportive of the embattled company. ABS CBN report interviews of fans loyal to the network. ABS CBN management issues statement. Several NUJP chapters hold their own protest actions but complain of surveillance by unidentified men who take their pictures even after their activities.

February 12, 2020

-Committee on Legislative Franchises vice chairperson Isabela 1st District Representative Antonio Albano admits pressure from both the Duterte administration and ABS CBN supporters.

February 14, 2020

-NUJP and ABS CBN employees jointly organize the sixth protest action named “Red Friday Protest” as the day fell on Valentine’s Day. Hundreds of network officials and workers participate. Reporters prepare food for the increasing number of supporters. PCP conduct interactive activities during protest. CAP, LODI (Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity) Kilusang Mayo Uno, Gabriela, Makabayan, and other labor federations attend.

February 19, 2020

-NUJP officers submit to the House of Representatives copies of 200 thousand signatures to the authors of the 11 bills for ABS CBN franchise renewal as well as to the Committee of Legislative Franchises secretariat and chairperson Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Alvarez. Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Ysagani Zarate receives the copies in behalf of his fellow authors.

Photograb of Altermidya video of the February 21 “White Friday” protest.

February 21, 2020

-Thousands of ABS CBN employees light candles and form a human chain around the network compound in an unprecedented mass action in defense of a media organization. Thousands more supporters from other organizations join earlier supporters in a two-hour program in front of the network’s broadcasting center. NUJP, CAP and ABS CBN employees jointly conduct program. Film and television stars attend. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[Disclosure: The author is NUJP deputy secretary general.]

NUJP submits list of petitioners for ABS-CBN franchise renewal to Congress

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) submitted to the House of Representatives (HOR) about 200 thousand signatures urging Congress to act on the 11 bills for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise last Wednesday, 19 February.

In a press conference at the HOR’s media center, the media group submitted to Bayan Muna Representative Karlos Ysagani Zarate about eight thousand signatures as well as a flash drive containing nearly 200 thousand signatures it gathered since it launched the petition signing campaign in January when plans by the Office of the Solicitor General to file a quo warranto petition were reported last January.

“The NUJP is undertaking this petition signing to show support to the authors of the 11 franchise bills and urge the [HOR} Committee on Legislative Franchises to schedule their discussion,” the group said.

Prior to the press conference, NUJP officers submitted the same lists to Committee of Legislative Franchises chairperson Rep. Franz Alvarez, as well as Representatives Edcel Lagman, Vilma Santos-Recto and the committee secretariat.

“We need not remind Congress that the network’s franchise expires on March 30 and that the First Regular Session [of the 18th Congress] only has a little more than a dozen session days [to act on the bills],” the NUJP said.

In urging Congress to pass ABS-CBN’s franchise, the media group said it has the welfare of 11 thousand network workers who are fear for their jobs.

NUJP urged Congress to be independent on the issue and give the embattled network due process.

NUJP officers submit list of petitioners to Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman who authored one of the bills for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.

NUJP said the petition signing aims to gather one million signatures and are still ongoing.

It revealed that the signatures are being gathered during their regular Friday night activities near ABS-CBN as well as in schools and communities.

They are assisted by other media groups such as Altermidya, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, Photojournalists Center of the Philippines, Defend Jobs Philippines, ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union, among other groups.

The group is set to submit the same lists to Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of both the Senate committees on public information and public services, on Thursday, February 20.

Zarate thanked NUJP “for the show of support” urging Alvarez and Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano to listen to the petitioners.

Zarate and fellow Makabayan bloc members are among the authors of the bills. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

(Disclosure: The author, currently NUJP deputy secretary general, was among the media group officers who turned over the list of petitioners.)

Stranded OFWs urge lifting of HK travel ban; quarantined Pinoy seafarer’s daughter seeks medical repatriation for dad

Hong Kong domestic worker Eleveneth Baldero said she fears losing her job due to the travel ban imposed by the Manila government to the Chinese territory. Contractual workers like her may be fired if unable to return back to their employers on time as Philippine authorities have prevented Filipino citizens from travelling to Hong Kong and the rest of China.

“My contract is set to expire on 6 March that is why I’m really worried. Financially, I am running out of money to sustain my stay here in the Philippines. This is why I really need to return back to Hong Kong,” Eleveneth said in a press conference held at the Migrante International office in Quezon City last Monday, 17 February.

Eleveneth and other migrant workers demanded that the Rodrigo Duterte government lift the corona virus disease-19 (COVID-19) travel ban it imposed last February 2 and grant exemption to returning migrant workers, students and residents. 

Rowena Lee was unable to hold back her tears thinking about her recuperating mother in Hong Kong recently discharged from a hospital from another ailment. “This is a very big problem for us since my 75-year old mother in Hong Kong still needs medical attention and I really want to return so I can be with her. She is all by herself,” Rowena said.

Rowena took a short leave from work 28 February and is being prevented to return to Hong Kong by the travel ban. Aside from worrying for her mother and her job, she is also anxious about bills and house rents that she needs to pay. “Our family needs us. It will be very hard for us if we get forced by the situation to borrow money just to extend our stay here. I am pleading to the government to lift the travel ban so we can return to our normal lives. We are struggling because we are not earning anything here,” she said.

Tess Aquino is a permanent Hong Kong resident and had been for 23 years. Aquino went home to the Philippines last 15 January for her annual leave and was set to fly back on 9 February. She heard about the travel ban on last 2 February and received an email notice from Philippine Airlines informing her about her flight’s cancellation. “I have attempted all possible ways to return back to Hong Kong. I was told by my company to try travelling to Hong Kong via Vietnam. Travel agencies refused to book my flight because of the travel ban and I was told that I will only be wasting my money because even if I make it to Vietnam, they would still not allow us to get to our final destination which is Hong Kong. For now, my company allowed me to temporarily work as home-based but for how long? I don’t think our employers will wait for us forever if this continues,” she narrated

Former Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union (FMWU-Hong Kong) chairperson Feliza Guy Benitez explained that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong are usually given two-week annual leaves, an opportunity they take to visit the Philippines. The leaves are often non-extendible.  “If OFWs get terminated because they exceeded the 14-day leave, it will be hard for us to get back again to zero just to process all the application papers and the government won’t even pay for it,” Benitez said.

(Migrante Hong Kong photo)

Urgent appeal

Benitez said 131 Hong Kong-based Filipino organizations already issued their Urgent Appeal Joint Statement calling on the Duterte government to lift the ban.  The statement estimated that there are around 25,000 overseas Filipino workers who have been unable to leave the country because of the ban. “We all feel that the travel ban which was imposed without a warning or consultation is unjustified and oppressive. It was decided upon without a comprehensive understanding of how it would affect us, and was not even in line with health protocols set by the World Health Organization. The abruptness by which it was carried out also belied the concern for Filipinos abroad that President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed in numerous speeches and interviews,” the statement reads.

The statement added that an additional 1,000 OFWs are affected by the travel ban consisting of Filipino residents, students and small business proprietors in Hong Kong. “Health-wise, we also feel safer in Hong Kong where we are assured of excellent public health care at little or no cost to us. Some of us who have private medical insurance get the added bonus of being treated at private hospitals, also for free,” the statement said.

Feliza Guy Benitez, another Hong Kong OFW, decried the state of public health services in the Philippines. “People who need medical attention are safer in Hong Kong because of their advanced healthcare system. It will be harder for OFWs to settle back here in the Philippines because of high unemployment, low wages and contractualization,” Feliza Guy said.

The group also complained about the “miniscule amount of compensation offered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to qualified OFWs. “Each stranded OFW was offered Php10,000 compensation from the OWWA Fund, an amount that would not even pay for the expenses they had to bear after being stranded at the airport. Moreover, non-OFWs were given no help at all, when many of them don’t even have houses in the Philippines, and have to pay for food and lodging while waiting for the ban to be lifted. They are also in danger of suffering even more if they lose their jobs, as they pay high rents and other expenses such as school fees for their children in Hong Kong,” the appeal said.

“When I went to OWWA, I was told that I am not covered because they are only processing compensation up to 16 February. I really do not know whether I will still receive any compensation from the government,” Eleveneth said.

Surrendering right to government assistance

The OFWs also object to proposals that they sign a waiver freeing the government from any responsibility should they decide to proceed with their travel to Hong Kong. Tess said the waiver is “problematic because it is going to free the government from its responsibility towards us OFWs.”

Migrante Philippines rights and welfare coordinator Lao Castillo added, “The waiver requirement is tantamount to obliging OFWs to surrender their right to receive government assistance. It is a dangerous precedent especially in times of conflict or crisis situations.”

Pinoy seafarer in trouble

Meanwhile, Victoria Lavado, daughter of the Filipino seafarer on the cruise ship Diamond fears her father and around 500 other Filipino seafarers who were placed under quarantine in Japan after 10 foreign ship crews which include 1 Filipino contracted COVID-19. “It took a long time before they received safety masks and they are still forced to work as if it is business as usual. There is no separate quarantine area for those who are already infected and they can still mix with other crews despite the risks. This is why I was really worried when I found out from reports that there are already 30 to 60 crews who are getting infected with COVID-19 daily,” Victoria said.

“We really want the Duterte government to work on medical repatriation for my father and for the other Filipino seafarers. The government must find a way to provide quality medical services for them here in the Philippines which is unfortunately notorious for its poor public healthcare and medical facilities,” Victoria added.

The group United Filipinos (UNIFIL)-Migrante Hong Kong’s said that the OFWs predicament may only be blamed on the government’s labor export policy that has been in place for so long. “If there are only adequate employment opportunities here in the Philippines, there could have been no need for us to leave the country. The government is now telling us that we cannot return back to our work. This is almost akin to taking away our lives.,” UNIFIL said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Secret’ talks on ABS-CBN franchise hit

By Melvin Gascon

A party-list lawmaker on Saturday denounced what he called “back-channel” talks among members of the House panel whom he accused of “sitting” on the application for renewal of the franchise of media network ABS CBN.

Buhay party-list Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza wondered what has been keeping the House committee on legislative franchises from tackling the 11 pending bills on the ABS CBN franchise renewal, hinting that the delay was supposedly to allow “shady” deals.

“There’s a saying, ‘a fish is caught by its mouth.’ It was they (committee members) who said the measures have been stalled as there has been a lot of back channeling on the ABS CBN issue,” he said in response to queries whether he believed that corruption has crept into the issue.

“We wonder what these secret talks were about on a supposedly public interest issue,” Atienza said in a forum in Quezon City.

He was referring to pronouncements by Isabela 1st Dist. Rep. Antonio “Tonypet” Albano, the committee vice chair, to dispute allegations that the committee was sitting on the franchise renewal application.

Albano has said committee members were already having meetings, but only behind closed doors because of a lot of “back channeling.”

‘Unjust’

Atienza reiterated his call for the House leadership to set hearings for the ABS CBN license, which expires on March 30. In a privilege speech on Monday, he called out House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, citing the urgency for Congress to tackle the media network’s franchise application.

He said the non-renewal of ABS CBN’s franchise imperils the gains of EDSA People Power in ousting a dictatorship and restoring democracy and free speech in the country.

“Congress’ inaction on this matter will be considered a rejection (of the application), and inaction without explanation is unjust,” Atienza told reporters at the In Focus weekly forum.

The Buhay lawmaker also mocked pronouncements from Cayetano claiming that the ABS CBN franchise bills are “important but not urgent.”

“What kind of logic is that? If you really consider a matter as important, you attend to it with urgency,” he said.

Atienza also rebuked Cayetano’s claim that Congress has not tackled the ABS CBN franchise bills because it has been busy with many other important concerns.

“I urge the public to come visit Congress to see for themselves how many of the members do not even attend sessions; how measures are approved despite the apparent lack of quorum,” he said.

The author sought Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez, franchise committee chair, but he did not respond to requests for interview, nor answer text queries sent to his mobile phone.

Slow, fast

Data from the House of Representatives website showed that since the opening of the 18th Congress on July 1, 2019, a total of 43 bills for broadcast franchise have been filed, and have subsequently been referred to the committee of legislative franchises.

Two bills for broadcast franchise were filed on July 1, including that for ABS CBN, authored by Nueva Ecija Rep. Micaela Violago.

Ten more separate bills on ABS CBN’s franchise renewal would be lodged by lawmakers: PBA party-list Rep. Jericho Jonas Nograles; Pangasinan Rep. Rose Marie Arenas (with 34 co-authors); Parañaque City Rep. Joy Myra Tambunting (with 12 co-authors); Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones (with 12 co-authors), and Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto (with 2 co-authors);

Deputy Speakers Aurelio Gonzales and Johnny Pimentel; Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez; Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato; Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat; ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro; Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago; and Baguio City Rep. Mark Go.

Records showed that out of 43 applications for broadcast franchise lodged before the committee, 12 bills that were filed later than the ABS CBN bill have already been approved by the House, and transmitted to the Senate.

Of the 12 bills for broadcast franchise approved, six of these listed committee chair Alvarez, as a co-author.

The House was also quick to approve four broadcast franchises, which were simultaneously filed on Sept. 12 and approved on Sept. 24 — or only after five session days.

Among the recently approved bills y the House was the 25-year franchise for Bicol Broadcasting Systems, Inc., which was filed on Nov. 13 and approved on third reading on Dec. 4, 2019 after just about nine session days. #

NUJP agrees with Robin vs contractualization but vows to defend ABS-CBN jobs

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said it agrees with actor Robin Padilla in deploring contractualization and reiterated its call to end the practice in all its forms.

Reacting to Padilla’s comment on media giant ABS-CBN’s franchise problems, the NUJP said it is one with the million of irregular works who are still waiting for the practice to be totally eliminated.

“That is why we also challenge government to make contractualization and all its iterations absolutely illegal as the President repeatedly promised in the past. The millons of contractual workers and the NUJP are still waiting,” the media group said in a statement Friday, February 14.

Padilla said ABS-CBN franchise renewal advocates must take the opportunity to compel the entertainment industry to change its working state.

“Gusto niyo pala itama ang mali, aba’y umpisahan natin sa una. Pag-usapan muna natin ang tamang sweldo, benepisyo at tamang oras ng trabaho ng mga kasama natin sa taping at shooting. Bago niyo ipaglaban ang karapatan ng kumpanya, unahin niyo ‘yung tao ng kumpanya na kasama niyo sa bawat araw sa location at ‘wag niyo proteksyunan lang ang regular employees. Paano ‘yung hindi regular?” the Philippine Star quoted Padilla to have said.

(If you want to correct a wrong, let us start from the beginning. Let us talk first about our co-workers’ just salaries, benefits, and the length of time our co-workers during tapings and shoots. Before you defend the company, you look first at your co-workers at locations. Do not just protect the regular workers. How about the irregular ones?)

Padilla said he is against ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal but called on fellow artists defending the media company to “be real.”

“Magpagamit muna kayo sa mahihirap, sa mga taong nagdala sa inyo sa kasikatan bago sa mga mayayaman,” Padilla, a known supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, added.

(Be in solidarity with the poor first, those who helped you become famous, before the rich ones.)

Duterte has repeatedly threatened to block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.

Duterte’s solicitor general filed petitions before the Supreme Court questioning how ABS-CBN implemented two of its franchises, a move the NUJP is politically motivated.

In agreeing with Padilla on the contractualization issue, the NUJP however asked if the actor issued his statement in defense of current moves to close the company down.

“Doing so may be likened to sinking an entire ship, bringing the entire crew and passengers down along with it, rather than compeling its owners and captain to do right by everyone,” the NUJP said.

The group said they fear for the massive loss of livelihood if ABS-CBN would be shutdown as well as the closure of a media company it adds is an attack to press freedom.

NUJP has repeatedly called for an end to labor-only contracting by the entire media industry in the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups launch network to defend activists from trumped-up charges

By Joseph Cuevas

Quezon City—Human rights group Karapatan and other progressive organizations formed a network to defend activists and and rights defenders in Mindanao against trumped-up charges and harassments by state forces under the Rodrigo Duterte government Wednesday, February 12.

Defend Mindanao, a campaign network in defense of Mindanao human rights defenders and development workers, also called on the Commission on Human Rights  to investigate and facilitate remedies for the embattled activists.

According to Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, co-convenor of Defend Mindanao and herself a Manobo tribal leader, Mindanao has been a factory mill of trumped-up criminal charges against activists.

Last March 2019, the Provincial Prosecutors Office of Bayugan City filed charges of kidnapping, arson, robbery and serious illegal detention against 468 individuals, including 78 known activists in Caraga and Northern Mindanao.

Cullamat added that although martial law in Mindanao has been lifted last December 2019, the arrest of Nestor Amora, a businessman and former barangay captain in Surigao City, and Karapatan national council member Engr. Jennifer Aguhob in Oroquietta City, prove that martial law still exists in the island through Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70.

She added that EO 70 allows the implementation of a de facto martial law in Mindanao and all over the country.

Other forms of human rights violations

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) denounced the inclusion of teacher Ophelia Tabacon, ACT Region 10 chairperson, among the 467 persons charged with kidnapping, serious illegal detention and destructive allegedly commited against police personnel from December 2018 to February 2019.

ACT said Tabacon also recieved death threats through her social media accounts and subjected to various form of surveillance and harassments by suspected State security forces.

Aside from the teachers’ group, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) also reported villifications and red-tagging by State forces.

KMU said leaftlets linking its allied National Federations of Labor Union have been distributed in Caraga region they said are the handiwork of the military.

Sr. Emma Cupin, current regional coordinator of RMP in Northern Mindanao, is also included in a warrant of arrest.

(Photo by Joseph Cuevas)

Hitlist

Defend Mindanao said the arrest warrants for the 468 respondents is a hitlist of the Duterte government that often leads to extra-judicial killings of activists.

The group said the red-baiting tactics of the government lump together civilian activists with the armed combatants of the New People’s Army in a bid to make them targets of military combat operations and legal offensives.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said that such tactics is an illegal practice and weaponization of law against critics and disenters.

The lawyers’ group cited issued warrants from courts they said are without complete examination of complainants and witnesses as well as submission of evidences. 

The NUPL challenged the Department of Justice to investigate public prosecutors who handle what they say are trumped-up cases against the activists. #

Lawyers vs lawyer: Calida’s attack against reporter-lawyer Navallo earns objections

The country’s top public lawyer earned the objection of his fellow lawyers after publicly castigating another lawyer while filing a petition questioning how media giant ABS-CBN had been implementing its franchises at the Supreme Court last Monday, February 10.

While being asked by ABS-CBN reporter and lawyer Mike Navallo for an interview, Solicitor General Jose Calida confronted him for allegedly “always criticizing” him in the news.

The lawyers’ group National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said Calida wore a stoic expression when he reprimanded the reporter but used an arrogant tone as “he condescendingly challenged the young but unperturbed Navallo to practice law and face him in court.”

Navallo calmly replied to Calida that he was “only doing his job.”

“Calida’s actions – without doubt condoned if not encouraged and goaded by President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s persistent threats against the media outfit – reveal an attempt at censorship and prior restraint, masked as a perfectly legal action to ‘put an end… to highly abusive practices,’” the NUPL said.

The solicitor general is the official chief legal counsel to President Duterte—himself a lawyer—and the entire executive branch of government.

The NUPL added that Calida’s “feudal treatment” of a fellow lawyer based on his self-professed superiority does not speak well neither of the office he represents nor of the profession.

The human rights lawyers group added that “Calida’s showcase of power exposes this government’s utter disrespect of the people’s right to a free and independent press, and its unqualified intolerance to dissent, disapproval of any diversion from the official line, and aversion to critical yet constructive views, opinions and ideas.”

“It fits right into the mold of presidential tantrums in tandem with legislative collusion. We pray that the judiciary does not become a party to this outrageous lawfare,” NUPL said.

“History will judge all these disingenuous legal assaults against freedoms and liberties the way they deserve. In time, everyone will be given his due,” the group warned.

Former Supreme Court spokesperson Atty. Theodore Te also came to the defense of the reporter, saying Navallo is a good lawyer.

“[Navallo] is a better lawyer than he is a reporter and he is one of the best reporters I know,” Te wrote on his twitter account.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) earlier condemned Calida’s actions, saying he “clearly overstepped the bounds of his office when he turned personal against Navallo” who was on coverage.

The NUJP said Calida was being boorish, “a classic example of a government factotum who mistakes his position of authority as a license to throw his weight around.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Media group slams ‘boorish’ Calida’s harassment of ABS-CBN reporter

A media group slammed Solicitor General Jose Calida for harassing ABS-CBN reporter and fellow lawyer Mike Navallo Monday morning.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Calida clearly overstepped the bounds of his office when he turned personal against Navallo who was covering the official’s filing of a quo warranto petition asking the Supreme Court to nullify the franchise of ABS-CBN and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence.

While refusing requests by reporters for an interview, Calida singled out Navallo for confrontation.

“Lagi mo akong binabanatan ha. Lawyer ka rin pala,” Calida reportedly told Navallo. (You always criticize me, huh. I heard you are a lawyer like me.)

Navallo replied, “I am just doing my job, sir.”

Calida, however, added: “Mag-practice ka na lang. Magkita tayo sa court.” (Why don’t you just practice law? See you in court.”

The NUJP said Calida was being boorish, “a classic example of a government factotum who mistakes his position of authority as a license to throw his weight around.”

The media group said the top government lawyer’s behavior mirrors his principal, President Rodrigo Durerte.

Calida’s quo warranto petition before the High Court came after Duterte repeatedly and publicly threatened to block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal the NUJP and other media organizations said are direct attacks on press freedom and freedom of expression. # (Raymund B. villanueva)

Quo warranto petition attacks press freedom–NUJP

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the government’s filing of a petition seeking to nullify the franchise of ABS-CBN before the Supreme Court on Monday morning, February 10.

In a statement hours after Solicitor General Jose Calida filed the quo warranto petition at the Supreme Court, the NUJP said the move proves the Rodrigo Duterte government is hell-bent on using all its powers to shut down the broadcast network.

The NUJP said the administration’s move also risks the trampling on Congress’ authority to legislate franchises.

ABS-CBN itself broke the story on Calida’s filing, reporting the petition also targets ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., a subsidiary of one of the country’s top two networks.

Reports said that the petition accuses the respondent companies’ “unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises under Republic Acts 7966 and 8332.”

 “We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers. These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years,” Calida said.

The NUJP, however, said Calida’s petition complies with President’s desire to block the companies’ franchise renewal now pending in Congress.

Duterte himself personally and repeatedly vowed to block ABS-CBN’s franchise.

“ABS-CBN, you’re a mouthpiece of… Your franchise will expire next year. If you are expecting it to be renewed, I’m sorry. I will see to it that you’re out,” Duterte said in a mix of Filipino and English last December 3.

Duterte accused ABS-CBN of not airing his paid advertisements in the last presidential campaigns that he won.

“We must not allow the vindictiveness of one man, no matter how powerful, to run roughshod over the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of the press and of expression, and the people’s right to know,” the NUJP said.

The media group challenged Congress and the Supreme Court to be independent and refuse to be “at the beck and call of their co-equal Executive branch.

The group also called on Filipino journalists to close ranks around their beleaguered ABS-CBN colleagues and the Filipino people to resist what it calls an attack to democracy.

“We call on all Filipinos who cherish democracy to stand up and defend press freedom because this freedom belongs to you,” NUJP said.

“This is not just about ABS-CBN. This is not just about Philippine media. This is all about whether anyone can or should deprive you, the Filipino people, of your right to know,” the group added.

NUJP is organizing another protest action at the Boy Scout’s Monument in Quezon City at five o’clock this afternoon as a reaction to the filing of the petition.

It had organized four successive Friday night protests and petition signing activities at the monument and around the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City while its chapters conducted similar activities nationwide.

It also launched an online petition for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise that has so far gathered more than 170 signatures.

NUJP is joined by other media and rights organizations such as the Altermidya Network, the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines, the ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union, Defend Jobs Philippines, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and others. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Journalist, human rights defenders arrested in Tacloban early morning raids

[UPDATED]

A journalist and four other human rights defenders were arrested in Tacloban City early Friday morning, February 7, raising cries of condemnation from media and human rights organizations.

Eastern Vista reporter and Aksyon Radyo – Tacloban DYVL 819 kHz broadcaster Frenchie Mae Cumpio was arrested at the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) staff house in Barangay Calanipawan in Tacloban City along with RMP staff Mariell Domanquill.

Guns were planted in their rooms, human rights group Karapatan said.

The RMP is the mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines.

Cumpio acts as Eastern Vista executive director, Altermidya correspondent in Tacloban City and an active member of the Philippine chapter of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television.

She co-hosts the long-running weekly DYVL radio show Lingganay Han Kamotuoran produced by the Promotion of Church People’s Response in Eastern Visayas.

Simultaneous with the raid on the RMP house, the police led by a certain Lt. Col. Pedere raided the Katungod Sinirangang Bisayas office where Karapatan National Council member for Eastern Visayas Alexander Philip Abinguna, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) -Tacloban’s Mira Legion and People’s Surge spokesperson Marissa Calbajao were arrested.

The Katungod office in Fatima Village, Bañezville, Brgy. 77, Tacloban City is shared with Bayan and peasant organization Sagupa.

Calbajao’s one-year old baby was also taken to the police station. Her organization, People’s Surge, is a Leyte and Samar-based organization advocating for genuine rehabilitation for Supertyphoon Yolanda victims.

The five are being charged with illegal possession of firearms and are detained at the Palo Philippine National Police (PNP) office, Altermidya said.

Media groups up in arms

“We condemn the Leyte police and state forces for this latest attack on Eastern Vista, our fellow community journalist Cumpio, and against people’s groups in Leyte. We demand their immediate and safe release, and call on the public to denounce this latest attempt to silence and intimidate independent media and human rights defenders,” Altermidya said in its alert.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also condemned the police for its arrest of Cumpio and demanded her immediate release.

“We offer our full support to Cumpio and our colleagues in Eastern Vista and Lingganay han Kamatuoran and call on the community of independent Filipino journalists to close ranks with us,” the NUJP said in a statement.

Before her arrest, Cumpio had been the subject of continued harassment and intimidation by men and at least one woman believed to be state security agents who had been tailing her around since September last year.

In the most recent incident on January 31, an unidentified man described by witnesses as tall and sporting a military-style haircut, visited the Eastern Vista office bearing a flower bouquet and showing a photo of Cumpio as he asked residents for her whereabouts.

On December 13, Cumpio reported that motorcycle-riding men she believed with military were tailing her around Tacloban City.

The arrest of Cumpio is reminiscent of that of Anne Krueger of the Negros-based alternative media outfit Paghimud-os, who was among the more than 50 persons arrested in simultaneous raids by the military and police on the offices of legal organizations long accused by the government of being “fronts” of the communist rebel movement, the NUJP said.

Krueger had been temporarily released after posting bail on similar illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

Cumpio’s arrest is clearly part of government’s crackdown against not only these supposed communist fronts but all critical media, the NUJP said.

Since last year, the government has no longer bothered to hide the fact that the critical media have been included in their list of “enemies of the state,” the NUJP added.

“The arrests of Cumpio and, before her, Krueger, the red-tagging of the NUJP and other press freedom groups and advocates, the continued attempts to shut down Rappler, ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, are all part of this government’s efforts to silence the free exchange of ideas and co-opt media into mouthing only what it allows,” the NUJP said.

“Let us thwart this government’s attempts to muzzle freedom of the press and expression, without which democracy cannot survive. Let us send out the message that we are free not because anyone allows us to be but because we insist on being free,” the media group added.

Gestapo-like raids

Karapatan said the raids, conducted between 1:00am to 2:30am, were “Gestapo-like” as the activists were sleeping when the police forcibly entered the Katungod-Bayan-Sagupa offices.  

“They were brought out of their rooms and minutes after, at least two guns, 1 machine gun and materials for an improvised explosive device were planted in the rooms,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

As in the case with the RMP staff house raid, the warrants were only shown to those arrested after they were accosted, Palabay added.

“Today’s arrests and raids should enrage should who stand for civil liberties and human rights, social justice and lasting peace in the country. We are calling on all advocates and communities to defend the rights of defenders against these attacks by the Duterte administration,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)