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NUJP condemns Army’s attempt to bar reporter from covering Marawi protest

Indeed, it is for those in authority, particularly the armed services, to observe proper decorum as any misstep could result in grievous harm not only to journalists but to all other citizens of this land.

March 31, 2018

We have long been under the impression that Colonel Romeo Brawner was one of those who fit the definition of an “officer and gentleman.”

Regretfully, he has just disabused us with his non-sequitur on the attempted eviction of journalist and National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) member Kath Cortez from covering the March 30 protest of Marawi residents seeking to return to their homes inside the shattered city’s main battle area by an Army officer who also sought to have our colleague’s identification documents and equipment confiscated.

In a statement, Brawner, the deputy commander of Joint Task Force Marawi, tried to justify the officer’s action as having been “influenced by the fact that leftist and non-Muslim organizations attempted to infiltrate the ranks of the legitimate Maranao internally displaced persons (IDPs) reportedly to agitate the peace-loving rallyists to become aggressive and even violent.”

We are sure our Meranaw brethren who participated in the protest can and will respond to Brawner’s claims.

But even if the good colonel’s allegation of “infiltration” were true, how does it explain the officer’s clear reaction to seeing Cortez’s ID?

“Uy, taga-Davao. Kumpiskahin ang ID! Kumpiskahin ang camera! Palabasin ‘yan ng Marawi!”

(Hey, she’s from Davao! Confiscate her ID! Confiscate her camera! Get her out of Marawi!)

This, to our mind, had nothing to do with any imagined infiltration or instigation and everything to do with a deliberate effort to prevent Cortez from covering a public event of national significance, even to the point of physically booting her out of Marawi.

That Brawner links this incident to his theory of infiltration is misguided at best and, worse, could actually endanger our colleagues by implying that security forces’ suspicions are enough reason for them to suppress journalists from coverage and/or subject them to clearly unconstitutional acts like confiscation of their property and arbitrary eviction, which not even martial law justifies.

Nevertheless, we welcome Brawner’s assurance that the 103rd Brigade “is now investigating this incident and will remind all army personnel in Marawi, of the proper decorum during events such as this.”

Indeed, it is for those in authority, particularly the armed services, to observe proper decorum as any misstep could result in grievous harm not only to journalists but to all other citizens of this land.

Lift martial law in Mindanao now, Moro groups urge Duterte

Moro groups called for the immediate lifting of martial law in Mindanao and the pull-out of both Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and United States troops following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of the liberation of Marawi City after five months of fighting.

In a statement Thursday, Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro said they find it ironic that Duterte has already declared the city’s liberation from the Isis-inspired Maute group earlier this week

“Their (AFP and US military) continued presence, legitimized by the imposition of martial law in Mindanao and their so-called role as architects of Marawi’s rehabilitation, conveniently glosses over the myriad of violations that the military itself has perpetrated,” the groups said.

Duterte announced Marawi’s liberation on his seventh visit to the besieged city October 17, three days shy of five months of brutal fighting and aerial bombing.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation,” Duterte told AFP troops Wednesday.

The AFP however said Marawi has yet to be completely cleared of Maute fighters centered on an area less than a hectare in size near Lake Lanao.

National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana also preempted Duterte Monday, saying there is still no decision on the lifting of martial law.

“We are going to assess the entire situation in Mindanao, and we will make our recommendation to the President in due time,” Lorenzana told reporters.

Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro urged for the establishment of an independent body to probe reports of human rights violations in line with the conduct of military operations in Marawi.

The groups said the government should be held responsible for the death and displacement of Marawi residents and the destruction of their communities due to the intensive aerial bombardment.

They added that the rampant divestment and destruction of properties in Marawi, alongside the grave humanitarian situation in evacuation centers should not be dismissed following Duterte’s announcement.

“Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro stressed the Duterte regime’s accountability in the destruction of Marawi and the displacement of thousands of its residents,” they said.

The groups said that the policies and actions undertaken by the government have undermined efforts to resolve conflict in Moro areas, and have instead aggravated abuses.

They also warned about further resistance from the Moro people amid Marawi’s destruction and prevailing humanitarian crisis in evacuation centers around the city and in neighboring provinces.

“The Moro people are further pushed to fight against [Duterte’s] fascist policies,” the groups said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Journalists slam bill wanting jail time for generic use of the word ‘Lanao’

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) slammed a bill at the House of Representatives wanting to jail journalists who generically use the word “Lanao” to refer to both Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur Provinces.

In a position paper, the group “strongly urge[d] the House Committee on Public Information to reject Lanao del Norte 1st District Rep. Mohamad Khalid Q. Dimaporo’s House Bill 4780 proposing jail time of up to six years and fines of up to P100,000 for journalists if they fail to distinguish between the Lanao provinces in their reports.

“If passed, the bill would violate Article III, Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, to wit: ‘No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances,’” NUJP said.

At a House hearing last last week, Dimaporo said Iligan City and Lanao del Norte suffer whenever reports use the generic name “Lanao” when these refer to Lanao del Sur because of the ongoing conflict in Marawi City.

“We lose potential investors because they think that Lanao del Norte is also involved in the ongoing war in our southern neighbor,” Dimaporo explained.

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) in the same hearing also opposed the measure.

“Such practice is only probably due to space and time limitations and not malice,” the KBP representative said.

Dimaporo admitted during the hearing he failed to consider talking first to journalists and media outfits before filing his bill.

The NUJP said Congress should not readily craft laws punishing journalists, adding good journalism could not be legislated.

“Because journalism, while a profession, is also an extension of the right to free expression in the service of the people’s right to know, we believe it is the duty of the state to encourage and support good journalism instead of seeking to craft laws that would only serve to stifle or force into conformity the freedom of the press and of expression,” the NUJP said.

The Union also took exception to Iloilo Rep. Sharon Garin’s recommendation for a review of laws that may protect “bad journalists.”

“We maintain that no such laws exist, only laws that are invariably used to suppress good journalism, such as the criminal libel law,” the NUJP said.

“We reiterate our long-standing demand to decriminalize libel,” it added.

Citing other bills before the committee saying the Philippines is among the countries with the most number of media killings, NUJP said journalists need more laws to protect and promote – not suppress – good journalism and free expression. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP offers help to fight terrorists anew

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) reiterated its previous declaration that it stands firmly with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in opposing and fighting terrorism in the country.

In a statement, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoil said it is willing to fight terrorist groups as well as acts of terrorism by the Maute, Abu Sayyaf and Ansar Al Khalifah Philippines (AKP) in parts of Mindanao, particularly in and around Marawi City where fighting has been raging for nearly four weeks already.

“As a matter of fundamental principle and constant policy, we condemn and combat terrorism. By terrorism, we mean actions that intimidate, terrorize, harm and murder civilians solely or mainly and in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law,” the NDFP said.

The NDFP said the three bands are “terrorist groups linked to local reactionary forces, affiliated with ISIS and supported by US-CIA and other foreign entities.”

The NDFP also said it has already instructed its allied organization, the Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO), inside Marawi City to assume home defense tasks against the Maute, Abu Sayyaf and AKP groups.

It added the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has also directed units of the New People’s Army (NPA) close to Marawi City to redeploy for the purpose of mopping up, holding and blocking operations, if necessary.

“The NDFP is ready to discuss and agree in detail with the GRP on how ceasefire, coordination and cooperation can be achieved in Marawi City by both forces unilaterally keeping safe distances between each other,” it said.

The NDFP said it has recommended to the CPP to order all other NPA units in Mindanao to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to enable all forces to concentrate against the three terror groups.

It added that the GRP must also order the AFP and PNP to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the NPA and its adjunct people’s militia to give chance for the coordination and cooperation to work against the terror groups.

The NDFP panel first offered help in fighting the Maute and Abu Sayyaf in Marawi last June 1,  a week after fighting broke out in the besieged city.

President Rodrigo Duterte said the NDFP’s proposal was a sign of goodwill but turned down the offer.

In offering to help fight the terror groups, the NDFP said it wants to allow the affected communities to return to normalcy as soon as possible.

“The rights and interests of the masses and communities must be respected and promoted,” it said, urging the GRP to ensure that the level of counteraction against terrorism, as well as the nature, scope and duration must be appropriate and proportional to the degree of danger, threat and/or harm and mayhem being committed by the terrorist groups in Marawi City.

“Upon the success of the counter-terrorist measures, these must cease in order to allow normalcy and full respect for human rights as soon as possible,” the NDFP said.

Yesterday, Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia, commander of the 4th Civil Relations Group told reporters the number of deaths has risen to 310, including government troops, terrorists and civilians.

GRP Department of Health secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial for her part said there are 218,551 people displaced by the fighting but only about 20,000 of them are staying in evacuation centers. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured Image by Jaja Necosia-The Breakaway Media)

 

Duterte’s Mindanao-wide martial law is unjustified–Joma

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has no or little justification to declare martial law in the whole of Mindanao, National Democratic Front of the Philippines Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison said.

After the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced the ongoing clash in Marawi City is a mere diversionary tactic by the Maute Group, Sison questioned if the invasion or rebellion is large enough to justify Duterte’s declaration.

“There is even an allegation the AFP made a ‘false flag operation’ to justify martial law,” Sison said.

Duterte reportedly declared martial law at five o’clock in the afternoon yesterday (10 pm, PH time) in Moscow to cover the entire Mindanao which will run for 60 days.

Warrantless arrests, imposition of curfew hours and other stringent security measures are to be implemented in connection to the declaration, reports said.

The reports said Duterte decided to cut short his state visit to Russia and is expected to fly back to the Philippines today.

National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana for his part also reportedly justified the inclusion of the entire region due to (security) problems in Zamboanga, Sulu and Tawi tawi, as well as in Central Mindanao with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the New People’s Army.

Sison warned Duterte not to be another Ferdinand Marcos and use the Marawi clashes as justification to declare martial law in the entire Philippines.

“Ganyan din ang ginawa noong 1971-1972 nang sinubukang disarmahan ang Kamorohan sa Marawi rin,” Sison said.

Sison said Marcos’ martial law left behind bitter memories of abhorrent abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, incarceration of many civilians, evictions and forced evacuations as well as confiscation of land and property.

“Duterte is playing with fire if he thinks it is a solution to Philippine problems,” Sison said.

Earlier, Moro organization Suara Bangsamoro called on the AFP not to conduct aerial bombings in Marawi, fearing civilian lives and livelihood will become collateral damage.

“We have received reports that aerial and artillery bombing will be conducted by the state forces to eradicate the Maute Group in the city,” Suara Bangsamoro chairperson Jerome Succor Aba said.

Instead of putting the city under military siege, the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front, and other religious leaders should talk to the Maute Group and come up with agreements to restore peace in the city, the group suggested.

“However, diplomatic talks between Moro leaders and the Maute Group will not prosper if the AFP will continue its military operations and bombings,” Aba said, adding that the Moro people in Mindanao is capable of solving this problem in a diplomatic way to avoid civilian casualties and human rights violations.

“We call on the Duterte Administration to address the peace instability through talks and diplomatic means,” Aba said.

Suara Bangsamoro said the Maute Group has ties with Islamic State (IS) militants and are frustrated with the direction the Moro’s struggles for self-determination are heading, forcing them towards IS.

“The establishment of a new caliphate and a global Islamic State has become an inspiring goal to the group because of the government’s insincerity and tokenism in resolving the core problems of the Moro people – inequity in the distribution of wealth and resources, government neglect to basic social services, lack of job opportunities, right to self-determination, among others,” Aba said.

Aba believes that the Maute Group is aware that the Philippine Government is not serious in implementing its agreements with the MILF and likened the situation with how The Tripoli Agreement with the MNLF has largely been ignored in the past.

Meanwhile, the Maute Group has taken over a hospital and burned a cathedral and a school since it derailed an AFP police operation at two o’clock yesterday afternoon, sources said.

The main building, science laboratories and library of the Protestant-owned Dansalan College were burned down while professors and students are trapped elsewhere in campus as exit points were blocked by both AFP and Maute troopers, United Church of Christ in the Philippines pastor Juliet Solis said.

Dr. Fedilinda Tawagon, Dansalan College president, asked for a helicopter rescue for the trapped victims, Solis added.

Marawi’s main road is also being controlled by black-clad men with high powered assault rifles, reports said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)