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Rights groups decry harassment of campus journalists

Free expression groups and advocates are outraged at village officials and public school teachers in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija who forced a campus journalist into issuing a public apology over his criticism of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s handling of the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Arts and media alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) said the officials and teachers “deserve nothing but our (LODI) contempt and scorn” for being “bad examples to the youth” when they forced University of the East Dawn editor in chief Joshua Molo into issuing a public apology over his online criticisms of the president and the government.

 “In their attempt to silence Joshua, they abused their positions of influence in the community and merely helped cover up the negligent and inept who Joshua wished to expose,” LODI said in a statement.

Molo caught the ire of Barangay San Fernando Sur officials and his former high school teachers when he questioned the Duterte administration’s “inaction” in posts on his Facebook wall. The post has since been taken down.

Molo’s posts piqued three of his former teachers at Cabiao National High School who professed their unquestioning support of the president.

LODI identified Molo’s former teachers as Jun Ainne Francisco, Rochelle Galang, Wilma Manalo, Mel Garcia, Delmar Miranda, Jonifel Ventura, and Rogelio Dela Cruz. The barangay officials are unidentified.

That Molo was eventually “forced” to issue a public apology and take down his posts have earned the ire of free expression and rights groups and advocates.

Violation to free expression

In an alert, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Redwire, an independent publication run by students of UE-Manila first broke the news and quoted friends who were in contact with the campus journalist as saying that the barangay officials threatened to file a libel case against Molo and have him picked up by police if he refused to apologize.

“A video posted on the UE Dawn editor’s social media account Sunday afternoon, April 5, showed him (Molo) making the ‘apology,’ taking his cue from persons outside the frame of the image to begin reading the message he had prepared on his phone, a possible indication he was under duress at the time,” the NUJP said.

Before removing the video, the campus journalist posted a comment saying a former teacher had asked him to take it down, the group added.

LODI said the Molo’s criticisms of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic are “non-crimes” and that he was right in pointing out the slow delivery of relief items for the citizens placed under quarantine.

Molo’s student publication, the UE Dawn, also condemned “in the strongest possible terms” actions against its editor, adding “preventing someone from expressing his or her opinion on matters such as grievances against the government is an act of oppression.”

Alumni of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), the national alliance of student publications that count the UE Dawn as its member, expressed full support to Molo and condemned “the cowardly acts of harassment against him.”

 “The coronavirus pandemic is no excuse to deny anyone, including students, the right to air grievances against government and to hold government accountable for its ineptitude and neglect. The limits on physical movement render free public debate online all the more important. Students have every right to participate in the debate,” the CEGP alumni said.

In a statement, the group asked Molo’s teachers to reconsider their plans to file charges against the campus journalist.

“[They should]…allow Joshua to freely speak his mind, and to instead to help him ventilate the valid complaints he is raising regarding the Duterte administration’s response to the pandemic. Teachers should be the last ones to discourage critical and independent thinking among students. Neither should they encourage blind, unthinking obedience to authority,” the CEGP alumni said.

Human rights group Karapatan for its part said, “We are alarmed on this incident as it is a case of curtailment of the right to free expression. Karapatan would like to remind authorities that the right to free speech is protected by the Philippine Constitution and international human rights instruments. Anyone who wishes to express dismay over government’s actions should never be threatened and penalized.”

Philippines Graphic editor in chief Joel Pablo Salud also publicly criticized Molo’s former teachers, asking “What sort of teachers would take the constitutionally-assured exercise of free speech against this university student editor? These are former teachers in high school; the young man is now in college,” he said.

“Is this the kind of system these teachers are propagating–coercion, intimidation, harassment of those who will exercise their right to free speech? To make matters more disturbing, these teachers were allegedly his former Campus Journalism instructors in high school,” Salud added.

Journalist Inday Espina-Varona said the barangay officials were wrong in coercing submission from Molo on issues way beyond the specific complaint.

“Threatening Molo with arrest on grounds of anti-government sentiment is a violation of his constitutional right to free expression,” Espina-Varona said,

 ‘Acting like a dictator’

In the same statement, the CEGP also condemned Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s threat against Today’s Carolinian (TC), student publication of the University of San Carlos in Cebu, that published an editorial critical of the local executive.

“She [Garcia] is not exempt from the requirement of accountability of public officers, and she has no legal authority to limit what can or cannot be said, or what can be asked or commented on,” the article reads.

The editorial entitled “A governor is not above the Constitution” was a criticism of Garcia’s announcement to form a unit to track down people with critical online posts.

Garcia responded with an “invitation” to TC editor in chief Berns Mitra to “beam some light into your clearly uninformed mind that has hastily jumped to an erroneous conclusion.”

The former officers of the CEGP however said Garcia should simply answer the questions and concerns raised by Cebu campus journalists.

“The pandemic is not a license for Garcia to act like a little dictator. She remains a public servant required by law to be accountable at all times to the people,” they said. # (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)

Ampatuan Massacre cases to be promulgated before Christmas

The court trying the Ampatuan Massacre cases has until December 20 of this year to announce whether the 197 accused for the murder of 58 victims are innocent or guilty.

In a November 7 memorandum, Supreme Court administrator Jose Midas Marquez granted Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 presiding judge Jocelyn A. Solis-Reyes until the said date to read her verdict to the accused.

The memorandum was Marquez’s reply to Solis-Reyes’ request for a 30-day extension to the original November 20 deadline.

Justice Midas-Marquez’s memorandum to Judge Solis-Reyes.

In an October 28 letter, Judge Solis-Reyes wrote the Supreme Court administrator to request for the extension “due to the voluminous records of these cases.”

The records have reached a total of 238 volumes, broken down to 165 volumes of records of proceedings, 65 volumes of transcripts of stenographic notes and 8 volumes of prosecution’s documentary evidence, Solis-Reyes said.

Marquez replied that he found the ground for the judge’s request “reasonable.”

Judge Solis-Reyes request for extension.

The high tribunal’s administrator however reminded that the 30-day extension is non-extendible.

He also directed Solis-Reyes to submit to his office a copy of the decision within 10 days from promulgation as proof of her compliance to decide the cases within the period requested.

The cases were originally due for promulgation on November 20 after the long-drawn trial was declared submitted for decision last August 22.

Previous to this, groups such as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said they hoped that the promulgation of the cases to happen before the 10th anniversary of the massacre on November 23.

The NUJP, along with other groups such as the Union of Journalists-University of the Philippines in Diliman and the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines, have announced a series of activities commemorating the 10th anniversary of the massacre dubbed as the worst attack on journalists in history.

Of the 58 massacre victims, 32 were journalists. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CEGP honors NUJP’s Espina with MH del Pilar Award

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) awarded National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) national chairperson Jose Jaime “Nonoy” Espina its highest honor to its alumni at the start of the World Press Freedom concert in Quezon City last Friday, May 3.

In a special ceremony, the CEGP finally handed the award to Espina who was supposed to receive it during the Guild’s 77th National Students Press Convention at the University of the Philippines—Visayas (UPV) in Cebu City last March 9.

The awardee failed to attend the convention due to a family emergency.

The award, named after the journalist, patriot and hero Del Pilar, was given to Espina for being “a pillar of press freedom.”

“On top of his distinguished journalism career, the awardee is, without doubt, a leading force in the defense of press freedom and freedom of expression in the country today,” the CEGP’s citation, read by its secretary general Paula Sabrine Janer, said.

“As a multi-term NUJP director and now its national chairperson, the awardee steadfastly stands for these rights and leads his organization to their defense. Whatever prestige that the NUJP enjoys as a media organization here and abroad, it is owed in great part to our awardee’s leadership,” the Guild’s citation added.

Espina was a high school campus journalist in his hometome Bacolod City before becoming the editor of Pagbutlak, UPV’s college student publication in Iloilo City.

He was a member of the community media group Correspondents, Broadcasters and Reporters Association—Action News Service or COBRA-ANS of Negros Occidental that was part of the “Mosquito Press” that fought the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. He also became a reporter and editor of various local and national media outifts.

“[I]n honoring our awardee’s progressive, patriotic and disinguished career in journalism and for his principled and brave defense of press freedom and human rights in the Philippines, the CEGP awards this year’s Gawad Marcelo H. Del Pilar Award to a journalist worth emulating by student journalists everywhere,” the CEGP added.

NUJP national chairperson Nonoy Espina with his Marcelo H. Del Pilar Award trophy and certificate from the College Editors Guild of the Philippines. (Photo by Lito Ocampo)

In his acceptance speech, Espina said he is just a journalist who stands by his profession.

“I realized the importance of our profession in democracy, in society. I came to love this profession when I saw for myself the real situation of the people, especially the marginalized,” Espina said.

He added that he does not see journalism as the people’s voice but a platform so their stories are told.

“I have come to love journalism because, in my three decades of being a journalist, people sometimes come up to me to thank me for writing about their struggles,” Espina said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Tributes pouring in despite PNP vilification vs Malayao

Tributes to Randy Malayao are still pouring in on the eve of the slain National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant’s burial in the old town of San Pablo, Isabela, his hometown.

Despite apparent efforts by the Cagayan Valley Philippine National Police to malign him, local and international progressive organizations continue to hail Malayao as a genuine peace worker.

“We got to know Randy during the peace dialogues that took place in Europe and we saw his commitment to the struggle for peace and the rights of the Filipino people,” the Rome-based Italian Migrants Committee said in a statement.

The Italian-Filipino Friendship Committee—likewise based in Rome—also expressed its solidarity with Malayao’s relatives and the NDFP.

“The Committee asks the movements and the anti-imperialist and pacifist Italian parties to support the cause of the NDFP and asks the Italian State to commit itself to a just peace in the Philippines in all the international fora, starting with the European Parliament,” it said in a statement.

OFWs in Belgium held a candle-lighting ceremony in front of the Philippine Embassy to protest the killing of Randy Malayao.

In the Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines alumni said they are proud of Randy who “use(d) his intelligence, political acumen, good character, kindness, humility, wit, and good disposition wherever his commitment brought him.”

“We absolutely admire him as an outstanding propagandist, tireless organizer, and an exceptional builder of consensus. He had this awesome ability to bring people from different background (and even in difficult circumstances) together and forge unity towards a common cause,” the group said.

Makabayan chairperson and senate aspirant Neri Colmenares also heaped praise on Malayao when he visited the fallen Bayan Muna regional coordinator’s wake.

“Randy is a hero of the people who spent his life always working for genuine peace and betterment of the Filipino people,” Colmenares said as he urged the PNP to “stop spreading intrigues against him because they are just exposing their true colors.”

In seeming response to ongoing vilification campaigns by the regional PNP and the other anti-Leftist groups against Malayao, NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison and NDFP Negotiating Panel member Julieta de Lima said they only have fond memories of the victim.

“What immediately struck us as soon as he introduced himself to us was his amiability, cheerful mien, quick sense of humor and deep sense of optimism,” the couple said from their asylum base in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

“In the course of working with him we came to respect him for his revolutionary integrity, intellect and diligence in the discussion of issues and drafting of documents and his desire for a just and lasting peace,” they added.

Sison and de Lima pointed out that in slandering Malayao, those who murdered him are unwittingly rendering him the highest honor even if in the vilest form of slander.

“It is a good thing to be attacked by the enemies of the Filipino people’s revolutionary cause of national and social liberation. The attacks unwittingly verify who are the heroes of the Filipino people,” they said.

Sison and de Lima said Malayao is “contributed his best to the struggle for national freedom, democracy, genuine development, social justice, cultural progress and just peace.”

“He will live forever in the hearts and minds of the people, while his contributions are indestructible energy within the growing and advancing revolutionary movement,” they said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

On its 32nd anniversary: NUJP members attacked by Nutriasia guards July 30, 2018

(UPDATED) On its 32nd anniversary: NUJP members attacked by Nutriasia guards, arrested
July 30, 2018

As the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines marked the 32nd anniversary of our founding, a number of our members, including the deputy secretary general of our Nueva Ecija chapter, were attacked, threatened and arrested as they covered the violent dispersal of striking workers at the NutriAsia factory in Marilao, Bulacan Monday afternoon.

We denounce the security personnel of NutriAsia for deliberately targeting journalists and the Bulacan police not only for failing to prevent or stop this outrage from happening but, even worse, arresting five colleagues, making false claims about them, and then preventing other journalists from inquiring after them and covering their detention.

Nueva Ecija chapter deputy secretary general Rosemarie Alcaraz was covering the ecumenical service and the violence that followed it for Radyo Natin-Guimba. As she took video of the dispersal, a guard advised her to go behind them. However, when she complied, she was struck on her right thigh with a truncheon, driving her to seek shelter in a makeshift hut erected by the striking workers.

Joseph Cuevas, reporter of Kodao Productions, on the other hand, was confronted by guards who threatened to destroy his camera unless he stopped filming.

Both reporters were wearing identification cards that clearly marked them as journalists.

Meanwhile, colleagues on the ground have confirmed that among the 19 persons arrested during the dispersal and its aftermath were Hiyas Saturay, Eric Tandoc, Avon Ang and Psalty Caluza, who were on coverage for AlterMidya, and Jon Angelo Bonifacio of the UP Diliman publication Scientia.

Kodao and AlterMiday are NUJP affiliates.

When Jola Diones-Mamangun of Kodao Productions went to the Meycauayan police station, she was denied access to documents. And when she asked about her arrested AlterMidya colleagues, was told that drugs and guns had been recovered from them, an obviously false and ridiculous claim.

Other colleagues also quoted Meycauyan chief of police Superintendent Santos Mera of claiming they needed permits before they could cover events at the police station.

The assault, threats and arrests of our colleagues is a clear attack on press freedom and highlights the increasing dangers journalists face in these increasingly troubled times.

We demand that the Meycauayan police immediately release Saturay, Tandoc, Ang, Caluza and Bonifacio. We demand just as strongly that they forget the ludicrous notion of filing trumped up criminal charges against our colleagues. It will surely backfire – and very badly – on you.

We likewise call on Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde to initiate an immediate investigation into this clear abuse of authority by his subordinates, particularly Mera, and impose the necessary sanctions.

It would bode ill for our already imperiled democracy if the very people sworn to serve and protect the citizenry are themselves responsible for violating our basic rights and liberties and flouting the law.

We will extend all possible assistance to our beleaguered colleagues in making sure those responsible for this assault are held accountable.

Media groups reject media regulation

Media groups reject a proposal to regulate mass media through a so-called Magna Carta for journalists, as announced by a Malacañan official Friday.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) rejected outright the proposal of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) to regulate the profession “in the guise of a “Magna Carta.”

In reaction to a speech by PTFoMS executive director Joel Egco in Baguio City Friday, the groups said it was not the first time that such a measure is being proposed, which they have consistently opposed.

SunStar-Baguio reported Egco as saying the proposed measure would seek to professionalize journalism through qualifying and classifying exams.

“If you want to become a media personality, you will have to take an exam every six months to assess your qualification which would set either a managerial position or a corresponding salary level or grade equivalent to that of government,” Egco was quoted as saying.

Egco was addressing Northern Luzon journalists who attended a seminar on media safety protocols developed by the PTFoMS in light of the continuing threats against media workers.

He said that professionalizing the ranks of journalists by classifying them into three levels would lessen threats against them.

“With the qualifying exam, journalists can now be qualified as a level 1, 2 or 3, and depending on the vacant position to be applied, they can now for example apply for a reportorial position which is level 2 while obtaining a level 1 qualification,” Egco said.

Saying that while it does not question Egco’s intent, the NUJP, however, said the proposed “Magna Carta,” which goes so far as to set salary grades depending on “competency,” is fraught with danger.

The group added that the proposal would allow the government to determine who can or cannot be a journalist, which is totally anathema to a profession that can thrive only in independence.

The CEGP for its part said the proposed Magna Carta is a misguided attempt by President Rodrigo Duterte’s “politically erratic regime, known for its pseudo-journalists, trolls, fake news and manipulation of public opinion.”

The student journalists said that the Duterte government is in no position to dictate on the media since its own “biases and sensibilities are geared towards the creation of state-sponsored fake news that dumb down the toiling masses.”

A Philippine Press Institute officer, meanwhile, said on a social media post that their group has already rejected the so-called Magna Carta a long time ago.

“’Levelling’ has nothing to do with quality of journalism. We should [instead] care for the following: welfare and protection, ethical practice, and truth-telling,” PPI executive director Ariel Sabellino said.

The NUJP added it cannot allow government the opportunity to meddle in any way in the profession and urged journalists as well as media owners to unite in opposing what it called a clear threat to freedom of the press and of expression. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP: Hands off our campus colleagues

THE National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemns the harassment and surveillance against our colleagues in the campus press by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

According to our long-time affiliate, the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), police and military agents have visited Ateneo de Naga University (ADNU) and Baao Community College (BCC) in Camarines Sur earlier this month to warn school officials against allowing their campus publications and journalists from joining the CEGP and attending its activities. Police personnel visited ADNU’s The Pillar and BCC’s The Nexus to interrogate student journalists about recent CEGP-Bicol activities, the list of attendees to the Guild’s Luzon-wide student press convention and the whereabouts of its Vice President for Luzon Jan Joseph Goingo. CEGP Bicol chairperson Jhoan Villanueva was also notified by the BCC student affairs director that the Philippine Army’s 9th Infantry Division and the PNP in Bicol have shown them a memorandum on the conduct of an “investigation” on student publications in Bicol. Both schools refused to give copies of the memorandum to the CEGP but Callueng said that ADNU has tightened its security procedures because of the surveillance.

The CEGP is a legitimate media organization that has a long history of upholding press freedom and the people’s right to know. It serves as the wellspring of the Philippine mass media. We call on the PNP, the AFP and the Duterte government to stop its surveillance and harassments of student journalists. We also urge the Ateneo de Naga and Baao Community College to be transparent and share the contents of the memorandum left by the police with the staff of The Pillars and The Nexus. #

Progressives protest, House approves death penalty bill

THE government must focus on ending poverty and its roots instead of killing the poor, progressive groups said at a rally at the House of Representatives yesterday said.

The protesters, led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, marched to last March 7 in protest of House Bill 4727 that seeks to re-impose death as punishment for drug-related crimes.

The Lower House nonetheless approved the bill on its third and final reading last night, with 216 congressmen voting in favor, 54 against and one abstaining. Read more

Journalists and victims’ kin decry impunity 7 years after Ampatuan massacre

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippine and the families of victims of the Ampatuan Massacre trooped to Mendiola last November 23 to demand justice for the mass murder of 58 civilians including 32 journalists in 2009.

The NUJP demanded a stop to the culture of impunity as it noted that journalists are still being harassed and attacked under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The NUJP also condemened the slow prosecution of the Ampatuan family and their cohorts in what is known as the worst election related crime in Philppine history and the worst singular attack against journalists throughout the world. Read more