Media groups condemned the reported attack on Philippine Collegian by suspected government intelligence operatives late Saturday night, November 16.
The Union of Journalists of the Philippines-UP (UJP-UP) and the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) said the incident is an act of intimidation against the official student publication of the University of the Philippines-Diliman.
In an alert, the Philippine Collegian reported that a certain Wilfredo Manapat forcibly entered their office at around 9:30 in the evening at the Sampaguita Residence Hall.
When confronted by Collegian staff members, Manapat reportedly said he was there to “do an inspection as part of surveillance.”
Two of Manapat’s companions stood outside the building, the Collegian said.
The Collegian staff immediately called up UP-Diliman chancellor Michael Tan who apparently ordered the dispatch of campus police officers to arrest the trespasser.
Manapat was subsequently brought to the UP-Diliman police station and, when pressed, claimed he was merely looking for his colleagues.
“In light of the recent attacks against the press, we stand with the Philippine Collegian and denounce this blatant intimidation against student publications,” UJP UP-Diliman, an association of mass communications students, said in a statement.
“This is a clear attempt of state oppressors to unnerve media entities that maintain a line of reportage reflective of the real social-political situation of the public,” the group added.
Altermidya for its part said it views the incident as a brazen attack on Philippine Collegian and the campus press.
The incident came a day after Interior and Local Government secretary Eduardo Año warned that the National Youth Camp being held in UP might be used by “communist front groups” to agitate and recruit students.
“We warn Secretary Año, who himself is implicated in the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos, against further labeling student organizations as communist fronts and therefore treated as targets by state security forces. Red-tagging always precedes grave human rights violations as we have seen in the recent raids and arrests of activists,” Altermidya said.
Altermidya pointed out that the Saturday’s incident was not the first time this year that members of the campus press have been red-tagged and subjected to surveillance and harassment by state security forces.
In August 2019, police visited the office of The Pillar of University of Eastern Philippines and interrogated its editor-in-chief.
In Bicol, police officers also red-tagged campus journalists from Ateneo de Naga University and Baao Community College, who were also officers of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines.
“We stand in solidarity with the campus press, and call on our colleagues in the media and concerned citizens to denounce the State’s attempts to silence critics,” Altermidya said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)