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IN SUPPORT OF CONG CORRALES AND LADY ANN SALEM

A statement by Fellows of the 2011 UP-CMC Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop

Mindanao Gold Star Daily associate editor Leonardo Vicente “Cong” B. Corrales is again under attack by enemies of press freedom and freedom of expression. Shady people behind Facebook page “Kamatooran” and “Uswag Radio Bukidnon” red-tagged Cong, an abominable act that puts our colleague in grave danger.

We, fellows of the 15th University of the Philippines-College of Mass Communication Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop, condemn the cowardly attacks against our co-fellow Cong. He has not done anything illegal and immoral in voicing out his opinions. It is his attackers who warrant investigation and prosecution for their dastardly deeds.

Like Cong, our Lopez Jaena batch mate and Manila Today editor Lady Ann “Icy” Salem is also being made to suffer for speaking truth to power. She was unjustly arrested last December 10, International Human Rights Day, and slapped with patently trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. The State preposterously accused her of being a member of a gun-running syndicate when all she wields is her pen and camera. Icy has yet to be released from prison more than two weeks after the Mandaluyong Court dismissed the charges against her.

The enemies of freedom are mistaken in thinking our colleagues are easily cowed. Both remain steadfast and vow to keep speaking out for truth and justice. We applaud Cong and Icy’s fortitude against efforts to silence their voices. We are proud of them.

When social injustices reign, critical voices like Cong and Icy’s could only spark hope. There should be more voices like theirs, not less. #

SIGNED:

-Joseph Ben “JB” R. Deveza                             -Rev. Fr. Ritche T. Salgado, OCarm

-Ronalyn “Len” V. Olea                                     -JM Agreda

-Michelle Castro Zoleta                                    -Raymund B. Villanueva

-Bobby Q. Labalan                                            -Renato “Macky” Macaspac

-Winnie Aguilar                                                -Kim Arveen Patria

-Ryan D. Rosauro

-Ed Lingao (Resource Person)

Groups assail Salem’s continuing detention

Media groups condemned government prosecutors and the police for their refusal to free Manila Today editor Lady Ann “Icy” Salem and labor organizer Rodrigo Esparago after the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court (RTC) dismissed charges of illegal possession of arms and explosives against the two.

The executive board of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT)-Philippine chapter said “dark forces” are preventing Salem and Esparago from regaining their freedom.

“[T]here are dark forces, it seems, lurking to keep her (Salem) from returning to the folds of journalism and do what she does best – speaking truth to power,” IAWRT said in a statement.

The group said it had been more than a week since the trumped-up charges against Salem and Esparago had been dropped but both remain in jail after prosecutors from the Mandaluyong City prosecutor’s office and the Mandaluyong police contested the decision.

IAWRT however pointed out that the Court found the search warrant used to enter her home was declared invalid and the evidence against the two accused as inadmissible.

“It stands to reason that she should be freed, following this historic decision,” the group said.

Earlier, Salem’s lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center said the Court’s decision was “based on evidence, and on the merits of the case.” As such, the “issuance of a release order should be automatic and mandatory.”

IAWRT-Philippine Chapter urged the Mandaluyong RTC to look into Salem’s urgent motion for release.

“The planted evidence and trumped-up charges filed against her have been proven false and she deserves no less but freedom and justice to finally be served,” it said.

In a statement issued from London, Violet Gonda, IAWRT International President, said that Salem was arrested for her journalism.

“Journalism is not a crime. No one deserves to be kept behind prison bars for exercising the right to freedom of speech nor deserves persecution for being a journalist.”

Salem is also IAWRT-International communication officer.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also condemned the police and the prosecutors “for cruelly continuing to block freedom for Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago despite the dismissal of the obviously trumped up criminal charges against them.”

The law is meant to protect, not persecute, the people, the NUJP said, urging the prosecutors to respect Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio’s ruling that Salem and Esparago’s arrest violated the Constitution and the Rules of Court.

Quisimbing-Ignacio also scored the police for going on a “fishing expedition” and providing “inconsistent” testimonies.

“If anything, the judgment should be more than enough reason not only to release Icy and Rodrigo but also to hold accountable each and everyone involved in this clear attempt to pervert the law,” the NUJP said in a statement.

The group bewailed that Philippine laws are turned into weapons “by the very people supposedly sworn to uphold it and wielded against those supposed to benefit from it.”

“Yet here we see the city prosecutor and police advocating double jeopardy!” the NUJP said.

Both media groups also called for the immediate resolution of the case involving Eastern Vista executive director Frenchie Mae Cumpio who was arrested on similar charges in Tacloban City last February 7, 2020. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups slam Duterte’s personal vendetta vs ABS-CBN, challenge Congress to prove independence

Groups condemned Rodrigo Duterte’s latest tirade against ABS-CBN, saying the President only proved vindictiveness in announcing he will defy Congress should it pass a new franchise law for the network.

The group Pirma Kapamilya slammed Duterte’s recent statement that he will order the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) not to issue ABS-CBN a permit to operate even if a franchise law is passed.

“His recent pronouncement reveals that last year’s denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise was nothing more but his personal vendetta at the expense of the viewing public, press freedom, and of the displaced employees of the network,” Pirma Kapamilya in a statement said.

“This is a symptom of his toxic ‘personalan politics’ not needed at this crucial time,” the group added.

Pirma Kapamilya is a volunteer group gathering signatures for a people’s initiative for a new franchise law for the network.

In his latest Monday night public address, Duterte accused Congress is planning to restore the broadcast franchise of the Lopezes.

“I don’t have a problem if Congress restores it. But if you say that if they can operate if they already have a franchise, no. I will not allow them. I will not allow the NTC to grant them the permit to operate,” Duterte said.

He again accused ABS-CBN of being a tax evader.

“Unless and until taxes are paid, I will ignore your franchise. I will not give them the license to operate. That’s nonsense. It’s like giving them a prize for committing criminal acts,” Duterte said.

Pirma Kapamilya however said Duterte continues to spread lies about the tax issue of the network even as the Bureau of Internal Revenue BIR cleared the network of any tax obligations.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) challenged the House of Representatives to prove its independence and finally grant ABS-CBN its franchise.

“We are tempted to thank President Rodrigo Duterte for proving us right about what we have been saying all along, that the shutdown of ABS-CBN was a personal vendetta that a lapdog Congress helped seal,” it said.

“Perhaps it is not too late for the members of the House of Representatives to salvage their reputations, to prove that they are what the Constitution charges them to be, members of a co-equal and INDEPENDENT branch of government, and no longer the willing accomplices to the continuing siege on press freedom and all our other rights and liberties,” the NUJP added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Journos pedal for jailed colleagues

Media groups and supporters held a biking event Sunday morning to commemorate the anniversary of the arrest of a journalist in Tacloban City on what they claim are trumped up charges.

Members of the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya), the International Association of Women in Radio and Television-Philippine Chapter, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) biked around Quezon City to call for the dropping of charges against Eastern Vista executive director Frenchie Mae Cumpio.

The bikers along Quezon Avenue on their way to the Commission on Human Rights.

Cumpio was arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives by the Philippine National Police (PNP), allegations uniformly leveled against arrested critics of the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The event also called for the immediate release of Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem whose case was dismissed by the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court just last Friday due to inconsistencies in the statements submitted by police witnesses.

Salem was arrested by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the PNP last December 10, International Human Rights Day.

She remains in jail, however, pending the issuance of a release order by the court.

The bike event started at the University of the Philippines and made its first stop at ABS-CBN where a brief program was held.

The bikers pedaled on to the statue of press freedom icon Joaquin Roces and then to the Commission on Human Rights were programs were also held.

Altermidya national coordinator Rhea Padilla and Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity convenor Tonyo Cruz vowed to continue their struggle to free Cumpio and Salem.

ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union president Jon Villanueva for his part thanked the media organizations and press freedom advocates for their continuing support to the beleaguered network.

ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union president Jon Villanueva.

Members of the Photojournalists Center of the Philippines welcomed the bikers at ABS-CBN.

The NUJP meanwhile hailed Mandaluyong RTC Presiding Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio’s cancellation of the search warrant used against Salem that “suffered from vagueness.”

“Even as we eagerly await Icy’s (Salem) return to freedom, we denounce the gross injustice she was subjected to by the agents of a government bent on suppressing the independent media and freedom of expression,” the NUJP said.

In a separate statement, the NUJP demanded the release of Cumpio it said was arrested and is being detained on spurious charges.

“The ordeal of Frenchie Mae is part of the increasing persecution of the critical media by the forces of a government so intolerant of criticism and dissent that the mere exercise of democratic rights is enough for one to be branded an ‘enemy of the state,’” the NUJP said. # (Report and photos by Raymund B. Villanueva)

2020 saw most brazen abuses vs journalism—NUJP

The year 2020 had been particularly bad for journalism in the Philippines that saw more media workers killed, arrested, jailed and lose their jobs, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported.

The media group said four journalists have been killed in the Philippines, including Cornelio Pepino in Negros Oriental last May 5; Jobert Bercasio in Sorsogon last September 14; Virgilio Maganes in Pangasinan last November 10; and Ronnie Villamor in Masbate last November 14.

Villamor was shot dead by the Philippine Army that claimed the journalist was a communist supporter and killed in an encounter.

Maganes, who survived the first slay attempt against him in 2016 by playing dead, was killed inside their family compound in Villasis, Pangasinan.

“Their deaths have brought the total of media killings under Duterte to 19, and to 191 since 1986,” the NUJP said.

The International Federation of Journalists lists the Philippines as among the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world in 2020.

Their killing of four Filipino media workers figured in the list of 60 journalists killed worldwide in 2020 by the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The IFJ list made the Philippines the fourth most dangerous country for journalists in the world in 2020, along with Syria and after India (8 killed), Pakistan (7), Afghanistan (7).

The list made the country the most dangerous in Southeast Asia as well.

Twenty-seven journalists were killed in the Asia-Pacific, the most dangerous region for journalists in 2020.

Arrests and detention

Seven journalists have also been arrested, at least two of whom remain detention, both women and executives of alternative media outfits.

Those arrested in 2020 include Glenn Jester Hitgano in Jan. 21 (arbitrarily arrested during coverage); Frenchiemae Cumpio in Feb. 7 (illegal firearms possession); Ramil Traya Bagues in Aug. 18 (cyber-libel); Rommel Ibasco Fenix in Sept. 15 (libel and violation of Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009);  Virgilio Avila Jr.  in Nov. 10 (cyber-libel); Mia Concordia in Nov. 10 (cyber-libel); and Lady Ann Salem in Dec. 10 (illegal possession of firearms and explosives).

Cumpio, executive director of alternative media outfit Eastern Vista, was sleeping at a church group’s dormitory when arrested in the dead of night.

Her case was among those cited by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights report in June last year as a clear case of human rights violation.

Partial Committee to Protect Journalists list of jailed media workers where Frenchie Mae Cumpio appears.

Cumpio’s imprisonment also made it to the list of 274 journalists jailed in 2020 globally by the New-York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The CPJ said the number was “a new high…as governments cracked down on coverage of COVID-19 or tried to suppress reporting on political unrest.”

Salem, editor of alternative news outfit Manila Today was arrested, of all days, on International Human Rights Day.

The NUJP has reported Salem’s case to the CPJ but the latter’s list has yet to include her name.

Salem is currently is in a Covid-19 isolation protocol at the Mandaluyong City Jail after her transfer from the Philippine National Police’s jail facility at Camp Crame.

CPJ infographic on countries where journalists have been jailed in 2020.

The rest of the arrested Filipino journalists were able to post bail, except Bagues whose current status the NUJP is trying to find out.

Red-tagging and charges

The NUJP said that the Philippine government had been especially vicious against the press the past year as compared to the first three years of the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“[B]ad as the first three years were, 2020 trumped them all as Duterte and his minions ramped up their attacks on the free press even as the COVID-19 pandemic began to make its deadly grip felt,” the NUJP said.

The media group said the Duterte government displayed a “most brazen abuse of state power” by red-tagging journalists and media institutions.

Aside from Cumpio and Salem, various government agencies and officials red-tagged alternative media outfits Kodao Productions, Bulatlat, Pinoy Weekly, Northern Dispatch, Panay Today, Manila Today, Radyo Natin-Guimba as well as dominant media organizations ABS-CBN, Rappler, CNN-Philippines, among many others.

Veteran journalist and NUJP director and former chairperson Nestor Burgos Jr. had also been red-tagged.

Editors and staff of Baguio City-based Northern Dispatch faced various police-instigated charges in court throughout last year.

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Rey Santos Jr. were judged guilty in June last year of libelling a businessman with links to Duterte.

Maria Ressa in a press briefing after her conviction of libel last June 15. (Photo by R. Villanueva)

ABS-CBN closure

The NUJP said the pandemic gave Duterte convenient cover to make good his repeated threats to shut down ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ biggest media conglomerate.

As threats of arrest forced the growing crowds that had rallied to the beleaguered network since late last year to stand down, the House of Representatives allowed ABS-CBN’s franchise to lapse, forcing the network to stop broadcasting on May 5.

On May 5, the network stopped broadcasting and, two months later, in June, the majority of the House committee on congressional franchises sealed its fate, voting to deny it a new franchise to operate.

Duterte thus become the second president after Ferdinand Marcos to force ABS-CBN off the air, the NUJP said.

The closure left thousands jobless and the loss of ABS-CBN regional stations also left many areas without their major source of news and entertainment.

The full extent of this would become clear during typhoons Rolly and Ulysses that caught millions of victims previously dependent on ABS-CBN news and alerts unaware of the hazards of the disasters, the NUJP said.

We strongly condemn the NTF-ELCAC’s callous, dangerous, and evidence-less red-tagging of the Altermidya network,” media organizations including the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, the University of the Philippines Department of Journalism, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, the Foundation for Media Alternatives, MindaNews, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Philippine Press Institute as well as media outfits Rappler and VERA Files said.

Bright spots

All was not gloomy in 2020, however, as there had been bright spots in the local media community’s defense of press freedom, the NUJP said.

“Not least of this was the successful push to have UNESCO revert the status of the Ampatuan massacre to ‘unresolved’ after it was pointed out that the legal process is not finished and 76 suspects are still at large and will need to be tried should they be arrested, the media group said.

The NUJP also cited other notable victories such as the case of GMA workers who sued the network over unfair labor practices

In February, the Court of Appeals decided to reinstate, with no loss of seniority and with full back wages, 51 employees who had been illegally terminated while the Supreme Court in September ruled to reinstate 30 cameramen and assistant cameramen illegally dismissed by GMA in 2013.

The NUJP also said that despite “continuing efforts of the enemies of truth to spread disinformation, the media community has, by and large, successfully fended them off, including the paid influencers and trolls of government.”

“As we thankfully bid goodbye to 2020, we are also aware of what could be even greater challenges and threats to freedom of the press and of expression in 2021 and beyond…And so we look forward to 2021 resolved to continue defending and pushing the boundaries for press freedom in our land,” the NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Journalist, 6 trade union organizers arrested in police raids on human rights day

[UPDATED] A journalist was among those arrested by the Philippine National Police in a wave of arrests today, International Human Rights Day.

Lady Ann Salem, editor of alternative news site Manila Today, was arrested by the police at 9AM at her residence in Mandaluyong City.

Salem inside an unmarked police car this morning. (Photo by a relative)

She was first taken to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) headquarters in Quezon City but was whisked to a Pasig City police office just as her lawyer Kristina Conti arrived.

Conti and Manila Today staff followed the police van to Pasig City but were led to a chase that ended in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City where Salem is now being detained.

Salem, a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP-CMC), co-founded the alternative media group Tudla and was among those who attended the founding assembly of the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) in 2010.

She is also a fellow of the Graciano Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop of UP-CMC.

Tudla and Manila Today are chapters of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

Salem is also the communications officer of the global media group International Association of Women in Radio and Television.

https://www.facebook.com/altermidya/posts/1857999847682801

Wave of arrests

Since 2AM this morning, the police had been raiding homes and arresting trade union organizers.

Dennise Velasco of Defend Jobs Philippines was first to be arrested at their home in Lagro, Quezon city by the CIDG and was taken to Camp Karingal, headquarters of the Quezon City Police District.

Like many other arrested activists, the police alleged that Velasco was in possession of guns and explosives.

In a Facebook Live post, Velasco’s wife Diane Zapata denied they were keeping such items at their home.

She in turn accused the police of planting them while they were ordered to lie face down for an hour and the police team had unhampered access to their house.

In a police report, the CIDG said it also arrested a Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Raiselle Astudillo, Jaymie Gregorio, and Joel Demate in a wave of arrests in Quezon City, Mandaluyong and Manila that netted several guns, explosives and ammunition.

Human rights and media groups are organizing an online rally at 7PM tonight to demand for Salem and the trade union organizers’ freedom.

Indignation rallies are also scheduled Friday morning at Camp Karingal, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court and Camp Crame. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Media groups rally behind AlterMidya; condemn ‘callous, dangerous, evidence-less red-tagging’

Media institutions defended a network of independent news outfits from government allegations it is a Communist “propaganda machinery.”

In a statement following a Senate hearing last week, the country’s most respected media institutions expressed support to the People’s Alternative Media Network (AlterMidya) and denounced the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)’s repeated allegations against the group.

“We strongly condemn the NTF-ELCAC’s callous, dangerous, and evidence-less red-tagging of the Altermidya network,” the media organizations said.

The institutions include the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, the University of the Philippines Department of Journalism, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, the Foundation for Media Alternatives, MindaNews, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Philippine Press Institute as well as media outfits Rappler and VERA Files.

At the third hearing of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation on red-tagging last December 1, NTF-ELCAC executive director Allen Capuyan said AlterMidya outfits were part of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ “propaganda machinery.”

The media institutions however said Capuyan’s allegation is “a baseless blanket statement… provided without proof, presented as an out-of-context info-graphic, fraught with deadly consequences.”

“Red-tagging, especially without credible evidence of wrongdoing, is a devious form of disinformation. Other institutions red-tagged have been systematically harassed or demonized; other individuals, especially women, have been trolled, detained, assaulted, even killed,” the signatories said.

The institutions said the Altermidya network offers independent readings of national issues and events that a functioning democracy should welcome as part of a healthy pluralism in the public discourse.

“It is admirably committed to reporting on corruption, human rights abuses, and environmental issues, as well as the plight of farmers and workers. And some of its institutional members, including but not limited to Bulatlat.com and Northern Dispatch, have a well-deserved national reputation for high-quality journalism: hard-hitting, yes, but also rooted in the facts,” their statement said.

The media organizations said the AlterMidya network has done its journalism despite great risk, including death threats and a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

“We therefore view this latest act of red-tagging with the utmost concern. It renders these community journalists even more vulnerable to abuse and violence, at the exact time we need more of their journalism,” they said.

‘Small but courageous’

In an earlier statement, the NUJP called on fellow journalists and “all Filipinos who cherish freedom and democracy” to support AlterMidya “against the utterly malicious and clearly criminal red-tagging by security officials.”

The NUJP said the government’s “baseless accusations” against the alternative media are nothing new but the level of vilification from the Duterte administration through NTF-ELCAC indicates it is bent on silencing contrary views and voices to force conformity on the Filipino people.

The NUJP said the latest assault on the alternative media is similar to the silencing of ABS-CBN and the continued attacks on Rappler and other critical and independent news organizations.

The union said AlterMidya’s “small but courageous news outfits” play a vital role in serving the people’s right to know through reportage and analysis that provide fresh perspectives to often under-reported social issues.

These issues include land reform, human rights, the environment and injustice as well as oft-neglected sectors such as farmers, small fisher folk, the urban poor, laborers and indigenous people.

“The otherwise unheard or ignored voices they bring to the national conversation strengthen our democracy by helping shape a fuller, more accurate picture of our society, of our people.

This, of course, is what those who seek to impose their will on us fear most and why they seek to silence not only the alternative media but independent Philippine media as a whole,” the NUJP said.

“It has always been a matter of pride for the NUJP to have the alternative media with us and count some of their best journalists as leaders of the organization,” NUJP said.

‘Will not be muzzled’

Alternative news outfit Bulatlat.com in an editorial said it will not be muzzled by the government’s latest attempt to discredit independent journalism in the Philippines.

Bulatlat  said President Duterte had been attempting to picture independent journalists as

“enemies of the state for exposing the administration’s gross human rights record, and lately its inefficiency in handling the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of recent strong typhoons.”

“Our allegiance is to the truth. That such truth hurts those in power only affirms even more the relevance of independent and fearless journalism. We in Bulatlat will continue to perform our tasks, alongside our colleagues in the alternative and dominant media, because the Filipino people deserve no less,” the country’s oldest existing online news outfit said.

Mindanao’s Davao Today also said it is concerned with the “malicious and baseless attempt to taint the integrity of Davao Today in its role as the voice of the Mindanao community.”

“In a national landscape where dissenting voices are increasing and systematically silenced, independent and community-sourced bearers of information have become our last stronghold of democratic practice. Community journalism should flourish to serve the community as Davao Today has been doing,” the outfit said in a statement.

AlterMidya said it sees the latest attacks against itself and its members as a form of intimidation to force critical journalists into silence amid growing discontent among the people due to the Duterte government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AlterMidya said it will pursue legal action against NTF-ELCAC’s “malicious smear campaign.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP: Stand with AlterMidya, Defend Press Freedom

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines calls on the community of independent Filipino journalists and on all Filipinos who cherish freedom and democracy to support the alternative media against the utterly malicious and clearly criminal red-tagging by security officials at the December 1 hearing of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation.

It has always been a matter of pride for the NUJP to have the alternative media with us and count some of their best journalists as leaders of the organization.

These small but courageous news outfits play a vital role in serving the people’s right to know through reportage and analysis that provide fresh perspectives to often under-reported social issues – land reform, human rights, the environment and injustice, to name a few – and oft-neglected sectors – the peasants, small fisher folk, the urban poor, laborers and indigenous people.

The otherwise unheard or ignored voices they bring to the national conversation strengthen our democracy by helping shape a fuller, more accurate picture of our society, of our people.

This, of course, is what those who seek to impose their will on us fear most and why they seek to silence not only the alternative media but independent Philippine media as a whole.

Baseless accusations against the alternative media are nothing new, of course. But the level of vilification from this administration, through the agencies and officials in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, indicates that government and its security machinery are bent on silencing contrary views and voices, and force conformity on our people.

Make no mistake, this assault on the alternative media is no different from the silencing of ABS-CBN and the continued attacks on Rappler and other critical and independent news organizations that insist on fulfilling our role of watchdog, of holding power to account, of speaking truth to power.

We cannot, we must not, allow them to succeed. Let us once and for all show them that we, the Philippine media and people, are free not because we are allowed to but because we insist on being free. #

On the incredulous red-tagging of Altermidya Network at the Dec. 1 Senate hearing

ONCE AGAIN, state forces led the hostile red-baiting of independent media at the December 1 Senate hearing after they presented the Altermidya Network and its members nationwide as so-called communist fronts.

The red-tagging of Altermidya journalists, online and on-ground, has intensified even more in the past months. These incidents, just like the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) presentation at the Senate hearing earlier, were done without evidence and incredulously linked the member outfits of Altermidya to an underground Communist organization.

In fact, the task force, despite its billion-peso-budget, merely copied the publicly-available Altermidya list of members and placed it under an incredible organizational heading.

We are appalled at this irresponsible practice, which is a stark contrast to our ethical commitment of truthful and careful reporting as journalists. The Altermidya Network is the broadest alliance of community journalists, independent media outfits, community radio broadcasters, and grassroots film collectives in the country. Its member outfits have a consistent record of covering underreported issues in communities – some for more than two decades, while other community-based media outfits in provinces join and continually expand the network.

Journalists from the alternative media relentlessly report on the situation in various communities across the country: on environment issues, corruption, human rights abuses, on the situation of farmers and workers, among others. Reporting on these stories have resulted in the non-stop attacks in various forms against our members – from death threats, cyberattacks, harassment, physical assault, detention, and even attempted murder.

Now, these attacks against the independent media are being mounted in a prominent arena at the Senate. But we can clearly see through these tactics of smearing and intimidating truth-tellers and critics into silence, especially in the middle of a growing discontent among the public.

We in the Altermidya are not new to attacks on media freedom. We will pursue legal action against this malicious smear campaign on our members. While we exhaust all means to fight back, we shall continue our journalistic responsibility of truth-telling– and with fellow journalists and freedom-loving Filipinos, persist in upholding press freedom and freedom of expression at all costs. #

Philippine Army soldiers kill journalist in Masbate

MANILA — A journalist was shot and killed by government soldiers in Milagros, Masbate, last Saturday, November 14.

Ronnie Villamor, 50, a stringer for local tabloid Dos Kantos Balita was killed by troops led by a certain 2nd Lieutenant Maydim Jomadil after covering an aborted survey of a disputed property.

Villamor was also a pastor of the Life in Christ Church.

A spot report on the incident by Milagros police chief Major Aldrin Rosales quoted army troops as saying they were investigating the presence of five armed men in Barangat Matanglad who fled at their approach.

The army and the police said Villamor was a New People’s Army (NPA) member who allegedly drew a firearm when ordered to stop his motorcycle at a Scout Platoon-2nd Infantry Battalion Philippine Army checkpoint.

The victim’s colleagues however disputed the soldiers’ version of the incident, saying there was no encounter between the government soldiers and the NPA.

Masbate Tri-Media President Dadong Briones Sr. told Dos Kantos Balita the victim just came from a coverage of an aborted survey of a piece of land being disputed by certain Dimen family and businessman Randy Favis.

Favis’s goons reportedly prevented the survey from proceeding, prompting the surveyors to return to mainland Bicol and the victim to proceed to his brother Arthur’s house at Barangay Bonbon.

Dos Kantos Balita reported that witnesses saw army troopers flagging down the victim and, after being identified by Favis’s men Johnrey Floresta and Eric Desilva, shot Villamor dead.

In a statement, the Masbate chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the killing of their colleague and demands a thorough investigation of the incident.

“The killing of our colleague…at the hands of government soldiers sends a chilling message to us journalists not only here in Masbate but all throughout the country,” the victims’ colleagues said.

Villamor is the fourth journalist murdered in Masbate after Joaquin Briones (March 13, 2017), Antonio Castillo (June 12, 2009), and Nelson Nedura (December 2, 2003), the NUJP said.

“He (Villamor) is the 19th slain during the Duterte administration and the 191st since 1986. He was also the second killed this month, only four days after NUJP member Virgilio Maganes, who had survived an attempt on his life in 2016, was shot dead outside his home in Villasis town, Pangasinan,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)