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AMARC Asia-Pacific Demands Immediate Release of Elena “Lina” Tijamo and Frenchie Mae Cumpio of the Philippines

25 June 2020

KATHMANDU, Nepal–AMARC Asia-Pacific demands the immediate release of Elena “Lina” Tijamo, the Community Radio Coordinator of a farmers’ group (FARDEC) in Bantayan Island, Cebu, the Philippines. Elena, 58, was forcibly taken from her home in Barangay Kampingganon, Bantayan, Cebu in the evening of June 13. According to media reports, suspected military elements—four armed masked men in civilian clothes accompanied by two women—held back family members while they covered Tijamo’s mouth with tape, tied her hands, and took her away. As of today, Elena remains missing.

Elena is the program coordinator for sustainable agriculture FARDEC, non-profit, non-government organization that offers paralegal and educational services to farmers facing land issues. She is also the Community Radio Coordinator of FARDEC in Bantayan Island, Cebu. According to media sources, Elena was red-tagged by state elements as being an “alleged New People’s Army.” In its statement of June 14, FARDEC has said “our stand for the rights of farmers has resulted in the targeting of FARDEC by protectors of vested interests.” A detail media report is available at https://kodao.org/iawrt-community-radio-coordinator-abduct…/.

The incident happened while the much-protested “Anti-Terrorism Bill” in the Philippines is in the process of becoming law. The bill, fast-tracked from May 29 and approved in Congress three sessions later, was condemned by all quarters of Philippine society—media, schools, lawyers, church, business, celebrities, etc. for the broad definition of terrorism that may be used against critics.

Speaking on the incident, Ramnath Bhat, President of AMARC Asia-Pacific has demanded the immediate release of Elena “Lina” Tijamo. He has also expressed grave concerns over the continuously deteriorating conditions of media freedom and freedom of expression in the Philippines. “Intimidation of human rights workers and media activists including community radio workers is deplorable and unacceptable, it must stop immediately. We call upon all concerned authorities of the Philippines including the judiciary to take necessary steps to protect human rights and media freedom and upon the wider media, activism and development community to highlight her illegal abduction. We express our solidarity and support to Elena’s family as well as with all community radio workers and human rights activists of the Philippines who are continuing the struggle”

On a similar case, AMARC Asia-Pacific has noted, with much distress the decision of the Tacloban Regional Trial Court to junk the omnibus motion to quash the search warrant used by the police and military to arrest broadcaster and journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and four other human rights defenders last February 7. The decision denies our colleague freedom and perpetuates the injustice she suffers. AMARC Asia-Pacific reiterates its protest against Cumpio’s arrest. We reckon that her imprisonment is unjust and she must be freed immediately!#

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AMARC is the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters. It has more than 400 member community radio stations and advocate groups worldwide and enjoys an observer status with the United Nations.