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RP falls in 2024 press freedom index due to red-tagging, Cumpio’s continuing imprisonment

The Philippines fared worse in the World Press Freedom Index, falling by two points to 134th out of 180 countries this year compared to 132nd in 2023.

Red-tagging and the continued detention of community journalist and broadcaster Frenchie Mae Cumpio were two of the factors in the drop, global press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (Rapporteurs Sans Frontieres, RSF) in its latest report said.

RSF said that while policies under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appear “more consensual” compared to his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, “authorities still often resort to red-tagging.”

The group described red-tagging as a practice inherited from the colonial era and Cold War in which journalists who do not toe the government line are branded as “subversive elements” or “reds.”

“This is tantamount to telling law enforcement that they (critical, independent journalists) are legitimate targets for arbitrary arrest or even summary execution,” RSF explained.

The latest index said the Philippine is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists where impunity for crimes against them “is almost total.”

The Philippines is classified as a “difficult” country while Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland are categorized as “good” alongside Portugal, Finland and Greenland

RSF said that while the Philippine government set up the Presidential Task Force on Media Security in 2016 but the inter-ministerial body has proved “unable to stem the vicious cycle of violence against journalists.”

The index also lists Cumpio as a journalist in detention despite efforts by government prosecutors to paint her as a member of an underground Communist group, the New People’s Army.

Greater concentration in ownership

RSF also said ownership in mainstream media has also recently reached even greater levels of concentration than in the past, “a development accompanied by closer ties between media owning families and political barons at regional and national levels.”

“The ABS-CBN/GMA duopoly is now being challenged by a third media giant, the Villar family’s Villar Group, which is openly affiliated to former President Duterte’s clan,” it said.

The Villars is the country’s richest family that counts among its members senators and representatives in the Philippine Congress.

“Even more worrying is the growing influence of the current President Marcos’s cousin, Martin Romualdez, who is Speaker of the House of Representatives. In 2023, his company, Prime Media, which owns the Manila Standard newspaper, established a joint venture with ABS-CBN’s radio business to gain even more influence,” RSF added.

Romualdez is touted by his supporters to be presidential timber in the 2028 national elections against Vice President Sara Duterte in what is seen as a massive clash of political dynasties who have had presidents among members.

Kodao’s Raymund Villanueva (left) and Danilo Arao (right) at the 2024 World Press Freedom Day Rally last May 3. (Photo by Lito Ocampo/Kodao)

Media safety summit approves declaration

Meanwhile, Philippine independent media organizations and more than a hundred leading journalists and journalism educators from all over the country concluded the two-day First Philippine Media Safety Summit with a declaration affirming independent and critical journalism last May 3, World Press Freedom Day, in Quezon City.

The declaration also condemned the killing of journalist and the lack of resolution of cases as well as the deliberate targeting of journalists and media organizations.

The media safety summit was organized by the Asian Institute for Journalism and Communication, the Center for Community Journalism and Development, the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, the Freedom for Media-Freedom for All Coalition, MindaNews, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Peace and Conflict Journalism Network, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and the Philippine Press Institute.

The summit was joined by the Commission on Human Rights, Internews, the Royal Norwegian Government, various projects under the United Nations in the Philippines as well as Karapatan, College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines and the People’s Alternative Media Network.

The NUJP led a World Press Freedom Day rally at the Boy Scout’s Circle in Quezon City after the declaration’s approval. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

As we were saying, Irene Khan

Dear Irene:

Halfway into your official visit and only after one tweet, enemies of freedom of expression and opinion in this country have already come out of the woodwork to attack your person and your mandate. Among them is a retired general and former spokesperson of the government’s counter-insurgency task force; another is a self-absorbed lawyer who once publicly defended Adolf Hitler.

But you must know about how your post on X on your visit to the Tacloban District Jail yesterday made the spokesperson of the regional red-tagging task force reply with menacing vitriol. You asked, “How long must they (journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and fellow human rights defenders Marielle Domequil and Alexander Abinguna) wait to be freed?” and Prosecutor Flosemer Chris Gonzales responded with naked annoyance and arrogance.

UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan (second from left) with staff and the three political detainees at the Tacloban District Jail on Friday. (Ms Khan’s X post)

Mr Gonzales alleged that you directly insulted the so-called independence of the entire Philippine judicial system, particularly the national prosecution service, by asking the question. He felt compelled to remind you that the outcome of court trials in the Philippines is not subject to ideologically-based speculation, conclusion and assumption.

I could have laughed hard at that were it not for the fact that too many innocent people have been victims of our corrupt judicial system. Leila de Lima (your fellow lawyer, former senator and former justice secretary who I heard will also be meeting you on this trip) will tell you more about it.

The public prosecutor went on to allege that your question assumes the three detainees will be free and that it encroaches on the functions of Philippine courts, putting a cloud on the so-called competence and integrity of the country’s law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. But he himself assumes the court will agree with him that the three prisoners slept with guns and grenades under their pillows (like hundreds of other political prisoners at the time of their midnight arrests), doesn’t he?

The fiscal who moonlights as a red-tagging task force mouthpiece proceeded to advise you to observe prudence and tact. Obviously bereft of these values himself, he ordered you to choose your words carefully when commenting about a host country that now happens to be ours. He seems ignorant of the fact that the state he refers to is a founding member of the United Nations of which you represent. He also “strongly reminded” you that the Philippines is a country of laws, forgetting that those laws include international covenants such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the country signed and claims to adhere to, the very same precepts your mandate and your very presence in the Philippines are based upon.

Mr Gonzales claimed as well that every person charged with an offense in the Philippines is entitled to due process of laws. Indeed, Frenchie, Marielle and Alexander should be entitled to their rights. But the public prosecutor is obviously desperate of reminding that the arresting officers swooped like thieves in the dead of night and blindfolded them. Yes, the government harps that no one is above the law here, but we aver in turn that many are under its boot.

Gonzales meanly ended with the statement that it is not your place to pass judgment on pending trials in this country’s courts. “Know your place in our country. Respect begets respect,” Gonzales wrote. “You are not a part of our judicial system,” he added.

Thank heavens you are not, Irene. If you are, who in their right mind would think of asking your help?

But you hear us more now, right? Asking a simple question, twitting an opinion, can be dangerous in this country. It is unacceptable to the State Mr Gonzales and government officials his kind represent. #

Maraming salamat, IRENE KHAN

Kodao expresses its deep gratitude to United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion for heeding our call to visit our colleague Frenchie Mae Cumpio and her fellow political detainees in jail. The long-awaited visit happened at the Tacloban District Jail last January 27 as part of her official visit to investigate the state of press freedom in the country.

In a tweet, Ms. Khan said: “We are only int’l visitors so far allowed by #Philippines govt to visit them! Arrested in Feb 2020, trial still dragging on. How long should they wait to be free?”

‘Ring for justice’: Media groups troop to DOJ to call for release of detained community journalist

MANILA – Bearing handbells, media groups led by Altermidya Network trooped to the Department of Justice in Manila on Tuesday, January 23, to call for the immediate release of detained community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio.

The protest was in time for Frenchie Mae’s 25th birthday and the start of the official visit to the Philippines of UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan.

The bells draw inspiration from the radio program that Frenchie Mae used to host titled “Lingganay Han Kamatuoran” (Bells of Truth in Waray).

“These bells signify the unwavering spirit of journalists and their commitment to truth in the face of increasing repression,” said Avon Ang, Altermidya Network national coordinator.

“As we mark four years since Frenchie Mae Cumpio’s arrest this February, we ring these bells not only for her but for every journalist who has been persecuted for reporting the truth,” Ang stressed.

Altermidya expressed optimism that the group as well as other media will be heard by UNSR Khan during her visit to the country, where she will investigate allegations of attacks against the freedom of opinion and expression in the Philippines.

The network is among the various organizations that have submitted reports on the precarious situation of journalists in the Philippines. Altermidya highlighted in its report the continued detention of Frenchie Mae, the incessant red-tagging attacks against community journalists, and the website blocking of alternative media outfits.

“We refuse to be silenced in the face of intimidation and injustice. Today, we ring our bells to call for an end to the weaponization of the law against journalists and for the establishment of a safe environment where the press can operate without fear,” she ended. #

Groups slam media security chief for red-tagging ahead of UN expert’s visit

Media groups and rights defenders condemned government’s top media security official, calling his allegation that a jailed journalist is active in terrorist groups a classic example of red-tagging.

Altermidya and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) executive director Paulino Gutierrez’s attack against journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio also proves the absurdity of his agency’s continued existence.

In his January 4 “Paul’s Alarm” column on JournalnewsOnline, Gutierrez wrote, “Nais din niyang (United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan) malaman ang sitwasyon ni Franchie (sic) Mae Cumpio, na kasalukuyang naka-detine sa Palo Provincial Jail sa Leyte dahil sa aktibo nitong papel sa lokal na teroristang grupo ng mga komunista.” (She also wants to know about Franchie (sic) Mae Cumpio’s situation, who is currently detained at the Palo Provincial Jail in Leyte because of her active role in the local terrorist group of communists.)

Altermidya said the official’s allegation is exactly what they mean about red-tagging: government officials linking civilians to alleged communist groups without proof.

“May we remind Mr. Gutierrez that Ms. Cumpio is contesting the charges filed against her in court and has yet to be convicted. There is absolutely no point for anyone, more so a high government official, to forget that ‘everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,’” Altermidya said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the NUJP said Gutierrez’s accusation highlights precisely how red-tagging has become institutionalized in the Philippines and has become undeclared policy.

“It also shows the absurdity of having a body created for media security in a government task force that actively puts journalists’ security at risk by accusing them of being enemies of the state,” NUJP said.

The group added that Gutierrez’s allegation violates not just the constitutional presumption of innocence but also the Journalist’s Code of Ethics.

Human rights group Karapatan also slammed Gutierrez, saying the official’s red-tagging of Cumpio is hypocritical.

“Here is a big example of the government’s so-called ‘promotion of human rights,’ and yet, the Philippine government is already vilifying human rights defenders and press freedom defenders because they have tagged them as enemies of the state,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Braggadocio gone wrong

Ironically, Gutierrez wrote about Khan’s official 10-day visit to the Philippines starting next week in his column, disclosing he is ready to meet with the UN expert on press freedom and freedom of expression.

Gutierrez added it is a significant personal honor for him to lead the country’s preparations for Khan’s visit as chief of the only government agency in the world dedicated to media worker’s rights.

Altermidya however said Gutierrez’s attack against Cumpio is emblematic of their complaints to the UN expert.

“It is exactly this kind of information that we wish Ms. Khan would closely look into in her investigation into the Philippine situation,” Altermidya said.

“The statement of USec Guiterrez highlights the urgency of our appeal to Ms Khan to conduct a thorough investigation on the continued vilification of journalists, affecting the exercise of press freedom and the people’s right to know,” Altermidya said.

Karapatan said that government agencies involved in the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur are the same agencies engaged in red-tagging, terrorist-labelling, filing of trumped up charges, and other forms of violations.

Special jail visit to Frenchie Mae

In his column, Gutierrez revealed that Khan wishes to visit Cumpio in jail.

The youngest journalist in prison in the world today, Cumpio was arrested in February 2020 when she was 20 years old.

A former editor of the student publication University of the Philippines Vista in Tacloban, Cumpio was a broadcaster with Manila Broadcasting Company’s Aksiyon Radyo station in Leyte at the time of her arrest.

She was also the executive director of alternative media outfit Eastern Vista and manager-in-training of Radyo Taclobanon, a women-led disaster resiliency community radio station project in Supertyphoon Yolanda-hit Eastern Visayas.

“Indeed, she is the very Frenchie Mae Cumpio mentioned in laureate Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize speech,” Altermidya said. # (Raymund B. tVillanueva)

= = = = = =

DISCLOSURE: Altermidya’s statement was issued with the author as reference, being the group’s chairperson. He is also a former NUJP officer. Kodao and the author were Cumpio’s trainers for the Radyo Taclobanon project.

On USec. Paul Gutierrez’s red-tagging of journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio

AlterMidya, January 17, 2024

Altermidya takes strong exception to Undersecretary Paul Gutierrez’s accusation and red-tagging of our member, Ms. Frenchie Mae Cumpio.  

In his January 4 “Paul’s Alarm” column on JournalnewsOnline, the Presidential Task Force On Media Security (PTFOMS) executive director wrote, Nais din niyang (United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan) malaman ang sitwasyon ni Franchie (sic) Mae Cumpio, na kasalukuyang naka-detine sa Palo Provincial Jail sa Leyte dahil sa aktibo nitong papel sa lokal na teroristang grupo ng mga komunista.” 

This is exactly what we mean by red-tagging: a senior government official linking civilians to alleged communist groups without proof. May we remind Mr. Gutierrez that Ms. Cumpio is contesting the charges filed against her in court and has yet to be convicted. There is absolutely no point for anyone, more so a high government official, to forget that “everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.” 

Ironically, Mr. Gutierrez’s column was about the arrival of Ms. Khan who is set to visit the country in an official visit starting next week. Much of the highlight of our submissions to the UNSR office contains precisely this kind of wanton and mindless vilification, harassment and intimidation of journalists. It is exactly this kind of information that we wish Ms. Khan would closely look into in her investigation into the Philippine situation. 

In his column, Mr. Gutierrez declared that he is ready for the challenge of Ms. Khan’s visit. We think not. If he bothered to carefully prepare for the visit, he would have surely found out that Frenchie Mae was an active broadcaster with MBC’s Aksyon Radyo in Leyte at the time of her arrest with several other human rights defenders on February 2020. She is the executive editor of alternative media outfit Eastern Vista and a former editor of the University of the Philippines-Tacloban Vista student publication. She was also manager-in-training of the Radyo Taclobanon, a women-led disaster resiliency community radio station project in Supertyphoon Yolanda-hit Eastern Visayas. Indeed, she is the very Frenchie Mae Cumpio mentioned in laureate Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize speech.  

The statement of USec Guiterrez highlights the urgency of our appeal to Ms Khan to conduct a thorough investigation on the continued vilification of journalists, affecting the exercise of press freedom and the people’s right to know. #

Asia Pacific community broadcasters demand Frenchie Mae Cumpio’s freedom

Kodao’s Villanueva elected to media group’s regional board

Community broadcasters in the Asia Pacific region called on the Philippine government to drop its prosecution against Filipino colleague Frenchie Mae Cumpio, calling charges against her “trumped-up.”

In its Bangkok Declaration, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters-Asia Pacific (French: Association Mondiale Des Radiodiffuseurs Communautaires,AMARC-AP) further said the Philippine government must release Cumpio from her “unjust imprisonment” of more than three years.

“We are resolved to call on the Republic of the Philippines to drop all trumped-up charges against our young colleague Frenchie Mae Cumpio and immediately release her from unjust imprisonment,” AMARC-AP said.

READ: AMARC condemns the arrest of broadcaster Frenchie Mae Cumpio of the Philippines

AMARC-AP has previously denounced Cumpio’s arrest on February 7, 2020 on allegations of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and has called on the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Irene Khan to investigate when she officially visits the Philippines next January.

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

Other international media organizations, such as the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Association of Women in Radio and Television have also reported about Cumpio’s arrest and ongoing trial.

Cumpio was an active broadcaster of Aksyon Radyo-Tacloban DYVL 819 KHz and was training to become station manager of the prospective disaster preparedness station Radyo Tacloban when arrested.

She was also executive director and editor of alternative media outfit Eastern Vista after her stint as a campus journalist with the University of the Philippines (UP)-Tacloban student publication UP Vista.

Cumpio was only 20 years old upon arrest.

Altermidya poster of its Free Frenchie Mae Cumpio campaign.

‘Stop red-tagging independent media’

Attended by 153 delegates from 15 Asia Pacific countries at Thailand’s Thammasat University, the 5th Regional Assembly of the region’s biggest media group likewise urged the Philippine government to resolve violations on press freedom in the Philippines.

“We likewise urge the Philippine government to bring justice to all victims of media killings as well as stop its red-tagging activities and other forms of persecution against independent media to allow them, including community broadcasting, to exist and operate freely,” its declaration said.

The declaration was unanimously adopted last October 30, three days before the first death anniversary of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa, the second media killing victim under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. administration.

The AMARC-AP assembly also unanimously voted Kodao reporter and People’s Alternative Media Network chairperson Raymund Villanueva as member of the group’s regional board.

Villanueva shall serve as treasurer and AMARC-AP regional executive committee member in the next four years. #

Threats to Truth-telling, Free Expression Worsen During Marcos Jr.’s First Year in Office

One year into the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the state of free expression has not improved. In fact, it has further deteriorated in the Philippines.

President Marcos Jr. pledged to uphold press freedom. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, however, recorded 84 incidents of attacks on the media from June 30, 2022 until July 22, 2023. This number is 42 percent higher compared to the documented cases during Duterte’s first 13 months in office.

Three journalists have been killed while four others survived two separate shooting incidents. The July 14 shooting of San Juanico TV reporters in Pastrana, Leyte by members of the local police and the subsequent surveillance and harassment they are subjected to prove that a lot has to be done to address impunity in the country.

Community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and dozens of artists, including Adora Faye de Vera, Amanda Echanis, JP and Grace Versoza, Lorie Sigua, and Aldeen Yañez among others, continue to languish in jail over trumped-up criminal charges. Their only crime is that they have utilized their skills and talent to amplify the voices of marginalized and oppressed sectors. 

Libel laws continue to be wielded as a form of harassment against journalists. The Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr., and even extended the prescription period of cyber libel from 12 years to 15 years. Last December 2022, journalist Frank Cimatu was convicted of cyber libel over a satirical social media post pertaining to former Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol. 

The blocking order against the websites of media outfits Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly, and of several progressive people’s organizations stands. For publishing critical news and views, they continue to be censored by the Philippine government. 

President Marcos Jr. also remains silent on various attacks against freedom of expression, especially in support of the right to assemble and seek redress for grievances.

The red-tagging of journalists, artists, activists, and anyone expressing opinion contrary to government narratives persists. The government task force mandated to end the armed conflict and their minions attempt to portray as “terrorists” those who voice out legitimate criticisms and concerns. The entire state machinery, under the guise of the “whole-of-nation-approach” is used to curtail not only free expression but also the right to organization of different sectors pushing for their rights and welfare.  

State forces wield the anti-terror law as a weapon against human rights defenders. The Anti-Terror Council has designated as terrorists indigenous peoples activists in the Cordillera, and a community doctor in Mindanao despite the dismissal of fabricated charges filed against these human rights defenders. In the Southern Tagalog region alone, 15 activists, including two Church leaders, have been charged with violation of the Anti-Terror Act.

Marcos Jr. has not lifted a finger to undo the excesses and abuses of Duterte. His inaction is taken as a go-signal by those who continue to violate the people’s right to free speech and free expression. 

We, journalists, artists and advocates, speak now to challenge the Marcos Jr. administration to reverse the policies of his predecessor and uphold and respect the people’s rights. 

Free Frenchie Mae Cumpio and all detained artists and human rights defenders!

Stop censorship! Unblock the truth! 
Junk the Anti-Terror Law!
Artists and Media, Fight Back!

Altermidya Network 
Concerned Artists of the Philippines 
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines 

Press Freedom Day ignites with demands for journalist’s liberty

There is no genuine press freedom in the Philippines while a journalist unjustly remains in jail, media groups said on World Press Freedom Day today, May 3.

Media groups People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) both called for the liberty of Tacloban-based journalist and broadcaster Frenchie Mae Cumpio who has been in jail for more than three years.

This 30th World Press Freedom Day, the struggle for a genuinely free press in the Philippines persists as community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio remains unjustly detained in Tacloban City,” Altermidya said in a statement.

Charged with terrorism-related cases, Cumpio is also appealing the forfeiture of hundreds of thousands of pesos the police said she was using to finance rebellion.

Cumpio was among human rights defenders and activists arrested in February 2020 in simultaneous raids by the police.

“The Altermidya Network continues to call for the dismissal of all fabricated charges and immediate release of our fellow community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio,” the media group said.

“We have no doubt that elements of the state are behind prolonging Frenchie’s case as she is a fierce government critic who upholds the interest of the people in her reportage,” it added.

Meanwhile, NUJP said that while there have been recent press freedom victories, such as in the acquittal of Maria Ressa and Rappler of tax evasion cases, many journalists are still facing threats.

NUJP said that prior to their arrest, Cumpio had been red-tagged and subjected to surveillance by the police and the military and that charges against her are based on testimony from questionable witnesses.

“The slow pace of (Cumpio’s) case — especially in contrast with the quick resolution of other, more high profile ones — is a violation of her right to a quick trial and also deprives the communities on (Eastern Visayas) that she used to report on and for,” NUJP said.

Other press freedom violations

NUJP said that Cumpio’s case is just one among several other press freedom violations in the Philippines.

The group said that since the Rodrigo Duterte administration, there have been attempts to convince journalists to disaffiliate from groups like the NUJP and outright attempts to paint the independent and alternative press as “enemies of the state.”

“While these attempts have been toned down under the new administration, they have continued. Attempts to organize within our ranks — and among citizens in general — are viewed with suspicion, if not vilified outright,” the group revealed.

NUJP and Altermidya also complain of government orders to block Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly news websites, as well as the “weaponization” of laws against freedom of expression and opinion, including the Anti-Terrorism and SIM Card Registration acts.

The groups also recalled government-led attacks against the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Rappler and ABS-CBN as well as the still unresolved murders of journalists Renato Blanco and Percy Lapid who were killed under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

UPLB’S Gandingan gives first ever-Louie Tabing Memorial Achievement Award to Kodao’s Villanueva

Awards founder: ‘He exemplifies offering one’s self and skills in leading efforts to uplift small communities through broadcasting’

Parts of the 16th Gandingan awarding ceremony announcing the first-ever recipient of the Ka Louie Tabing Memorial Achievement Award and Raymund Villanueva’s acceptance speech. (Footage by the UP Community Broadcasting Society)

Kodao’s Raymund Villanueva won the first-ever Ka Louie Tabing Memorial Achievement Award in Community Broadcasting in the 16th Gandingan Awards given annually by the Community Broadcasters’ Society Inc. (ComBroadSoc) of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB).

Cited for his active role in training community radio broadcasters in the Philippines and abroad as well as in establishing community radio stations nationwide, Villanueva won over two other finalists, the Radyo Natin network of the Manila Broadcasting Company and Radyo Katabang of the local government unit of Vinzons, Camarines Norte.

The award was named after the late Lucio “Ka Louie” N. Tabing, hailed for advocating for the inclusion of the rural masses and the indigenous peoples in broadcasting and development. He died in January 2018 of natural causes.

Ngayong taon…ay nahanap na natin ang kauna-unahang tatanggap ng Ka Louie Tabing Memorial Achievement Award in Community Broadcasting. Siya ang ating ehemplo sa pag-aalay ng sarili at kakayahan upang manguna sa pagtataguyod ng kapakanan ng maliliit na komunidad sa pamamagitan ng pamamahayag at pagtuturo sa mga mamamamayan,” Gandingan Awards founder and UPLB Prof. Mark Lester M. Chico said.

(This year, we have found our first-ever recipient of the Ka Louie Tabing Memorial Achievement Award in Community Broadcasting. He exemplifies offering one’s self and skills in leading efforts to uplift small communities through broadcasting and teaching citizens.)

UPLB Department of Development Broadcasting and Telecommunication (DDBTC) chairperson Dr. Trina Leah T. Mendoza said the Ka Louie Tabing Award is recognition to radio stations and personalities who have significantly contributed to the field of development through their reporting and storytelling.

“Following a thorough deliberation by the DDBTC and in partnership with the UP Community Broadcasters’ Society, we have selected an awardee who has championed community radio broadcasting through the establishment of community radio stations in the country and capacity building of community radio broadcasters throughout the Asia-Pacific region,” Dr. Mendoza said in her announcement of the winner.

“This award is truly significant because Ka Louie was a pioneer in both the concept and practice of community radio broadcasting in the Philippines and beyond,” she added.

Dr. Mendoza said Villanueva is a broadcaster and journalist of 25 years and a chief reporter and editor who focus on human rights and peace journalism.

Villanueva has participated in both successful and aborted attempts to establish community radio stations in Cagayan, Mountain Province, Leyte, Cebu, Iloilo and Bukidnon provinces, as well as in Metro Manila.

He has hosted and produced multi-awarded radio shows in several commercial, campus and religious radio stations in Metro Manila.

As a community broadcasting advocate, he has given trainings and workshops for communities and organizations throughout the Philippines and among migrant Filipino communities in Hong Kong, Italy and The Netherlands. He has also represented the Philippines in community radio conferences and assemblies in Argentina, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, India, and Timor Leste as participant and trainer.

FOR ELENA AND FRENCHIE MAE

In his acceptance speech, Villanueva paid tribute to Tabing he credits for encouraging Kodao Productions towards community radio broadcasting.

He said Tabing is highly regarded as a pioneer in the global movement of community broadcasters.

Villanueva however complained of the burning of Radyo Cagayano, the closure of Radyo Lumad due to red-tagging, and the failure of Radyo Taclobanon, Radyo Sugbuanon and Radyo Komunidad among urban poor communities in Metro Manila to proceed due to harassments from suspected state agents.

He also cited the 2020 abduction and subsequent death of Bantayan Island development worker Elena Tijamo who turned up dead in a Mandaluyong City hospital a year later.

Tijamo, a red-tagging victim, assisted in the establishment of Radyo Sugbuanon that was later forced to stop test broadcasts after repeated police harassment.

In a Facebook post Saturday night, Villanueva also called for the release of Tacloban-based broadcaster Frenchie Mae Cumpio he helped train to later become anchor and station manager of the planned Radyo Taclobanon.

Red-tagged, Cumpio is accused by the government of being a communist guerrilla even while she was hosting a regular weekly radio show in Palo, Leyte.

“But we will not stop in our efforts to establish more community radio stations in the future. We persevere because of our desire for genuine social justice that is possible only when the people have their own free voice,” Villanueva said.

“There is no democracy if the people are silenced,” he added.This year’s Gandingan Awards is themed, “Naninindigan para sa ating mga karapatan” (Standing up for our rights) its organizers said is a salute to media workers and institutions who stand up for the human and other rights that are under attack.

The award is named after a set of four hanging gongs that are part of a kulintang ensemble and also used by the Maguindanao youth to communicate.

The UP Community Broadcasting Society announcement card.

VETERAN JOURNALIST, PRESS FREEDOM ADVOCATE

Villanueva is Kodao Production’s director for radio who has hosted radio programs in several radio stations throughout his career as broadcaster-journalist.

He has filed news reports from Hong Kong, India, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, China, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Italy, The Netherlands, Argentina, Timor Leste, Norway, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

A press freedom advocate, he is the immediate past deputy secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines that he also served as a two-term national director. He is currently the NUJP’s media safety officer for Luzon.

Villanueva is a previous winner of several Gawad Agong Awards for his reportage on the national minorities and was the 2015 Titus Brandsma Emergent Leadership in Journalism awardee of the Carmelite Order in the Philippines.

He is a fellow of the first and only Diploma in Radio Journalism program of the Asian Institute of Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University in 2006 and a fellow of the Graciano Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop on human rights reporting of the College of Mass Communication of the University of the Philippines in Diliman in 2012.

He authored two books on Kodao’s reports on the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

His first book published in 2018 was a collection of poems from the 1990s to the 2010s. #