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NUJP to PTFOMS: Where did your 50% media killing resolution rate come from?

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) blasted government claims that more than half of all media killings in the Philippines have been resolved.

Reacting to government claims to visiting United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan, the NUJP said it is flabbergasted that the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) reported 102 out of 203 media-related killings have been successfully prosecuted.

The NUJP said that, based on its own monitoring, there have been 199 journalists were gunned down since 1986 and the number of cases successfully resolved does not come close to 50 percent.

The group cited a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report in December 2022 that revealed only 11 percent of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility’s count of 176 media killing resulted in convictions.

The same article showed that only 53 percent of the cases reached the courts, the group added.

“How the PTFOMS classified the case as ‘resolved’ is a mystery. Do they mean establishment of possible motives, identification of the suspects, or shrugging off the incidents as not work-related?” NUJP asked.

In a press release Friday, PTFOMS said it discussed with Khan its database on media killings, revealing that “half of the media-related killings (102 out of 203 cases) have been resolved, whether through legal prosecution or other means.”

“This contrasts starkly with the United Nations’ record of only about 10% resolution in journalist killings around the world, a point highlighted by Ms. Khan,” the task force boasted.

PTFOMS added that its discussion with Khan last Wednesday also highlighted the collaborative efforts of the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies in addressing media killings.

Families of media killing victims however testified to Khan that successful prosecutions mostly mean the conviction of triggermen and accomplices but not of the masterminds.

Last Tuesday, family members of Dr. Gerry Ortega and Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa joined media organizations in their meeting with Khan and complained of the government’s failure to convict alleged masterminds of their murders.

Former Palawan governor Joel Reyes is being charged of masterminding Ortega’s assassination in 2011 while former Bureau of Corrections director general is accused of masterminding Mabasa’s murder.

“The brazenness of the killings, such as in the cases Percy Mabasa and Juan Jumalon, indicates that impunity is alive in this country. Emblematic of this problem is the case of Gerry Ortega who was gunned down in 2011. After 13 years, the alleged mastermind remains scot-free,” the NUJP said.

“Whether work-related or not, killings of journalists are not acceptable, and should not happen in a democratic society. The killings underscore the failure of the government to protect the right to life of its citizens,” the group added.

Khan is in the Philippines for a 10-day official visit to look into the state of press freedom and freedom of expression and opinion in the country.

She met with journalists and activists in Baguio City last Friday and had just concluded her meetings with counterparts in Tacloban City.

Khan also visited journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, church worker Marielle Domequil and human rights defender Alexander Abinguna at the Tacloban District Jail earlier today. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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. #

NUJP, PTFOMS back OSG to have ex-Palawan governor rearrested

Mario Joel Reyes and brother are alleged masterminds in the murder of broadcaster Gerry Ortega in 2011

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) renewed its call for justice for slain Palawan broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega as the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) urged the Supreme Court (SC) to have former Palawan governor Mario Joel Reyes rearrested as alleged mastermind in the murder case.

The media union said it also supports Reyes’ continued trial in the 11 year case.

“We welcome moves by the Office of the Solicitor General and the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) to have him (Reyes) rearrested,” the NUJP said.

In a formal motion earlier this month, the OSG has argued that “essential requisites” are absent in the High Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order that allowed Reyes to leave jail.

“There is now a finding of strong evidence of petitioner’s guilt, there is no invasion, much less a material and substantial invasion of [his] right should he be ordered re-arrested,” the OSG argued.

NUJP said a murder suspect like Reyes who can that evade arrest and go about his political business can influence the case.

“[W]hile Reyes may be within his rights to run for office, it is likely that he does not have the right to do it outside of government custody,” the group said.

NUJP added that Reyes’ temporary freedom may only embolden those who seek to silence the critical press and put the entire media community at greater risk.

PTFOMS supports OSG petition

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) also said it “fully backs and supports” OSG’s move for the lifting of the SC’s March 23, 2022 TRO favoring the alleged mastermind.

“We believe that the evidence of guilt is strong in the criminal case filed against Reyes in connection with the slaying of Gerry Ortega,” PTFOMS executive director and Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco said in an April 27 statement.

PTFOMS pointed out that Reyes was tagged by his former bodyguard Rodolfo Edrad as the mastermind behind the killing of Ortega, who had criticized the former governor for the supposed destruction of the environment in the province.

Also implicated in the killing is his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes. The two are running for governor and mayor, respectively, in the May 9 elections.

Earlier, Egco also supported OSG’s investigation into the 2018 Court of Appeals decision to release Reyes from detention due to alleged insufficiency of evidence in the murder case.

In 2019, the CA reinstated the murder charges against the former Palawan governor.

Ortega family to press for justice

In a statement issued during a press conference on Wednesday, Ortega’s widow Patty said their family believes the slain broadcaster will still be given justice.

“I believe there is justice. I believe that the Supreme Court will do what is right so justice will prevail,” she said.

Patty said she is grateful to the NUJP, PTFOMs and other groups who have continuously offered support for their quest for justice for her slain husband. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Police sergeant, retired corporal and civilian to be charged for broadcaster’s murder

Authorities are preparing charges against a police sergeant, a retired police corporal and a civilian for the murder of Dumaguete City broadcaster Dindo Generoso yesterday, Thursday, November 7.

Philippine National Police-Negros Oriental acting director Colonel Julian Entoma said they have arrested and are preparing charges against Police Corporal Glenn Corsame and civilian Teddy Reyes Salaw for Generoso’s murder.

The third suspect, identified as Police Sergeant Roger Rubio, remains at large.

Entoma described Corsame as a “non-duty police officer” under the Negros Oriental provincial police office.

Screen grab of suspect Corsame’s file.(PTFoMs image)

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), in announcing the arrests, however said Corsame is already retired. A PTFoMS screen grab of Corsame’s file indicates that he is “optionally retired.”

Generoso, 67, was driving to dyEM Bai Radio where he hosts a radio program at around 7:30 a.m when shot by a gunman riding pillion on a motorcycle.

He died of eight gunshot wounds to the head and body.

The PTFoMS said reports it received indicated that the suspects are in the employ of a powerful politician in the province.

The mastermind and the motive for Generoso’s killing are still the subject of ongoing follow-up operations, PTFoMs said.

Generoso was the second media practitioner killed in Dumaguete since 2018 when Edmund Sestoso was shot on his way home from work on April 31, dying of his injuries the next day.

Sestoso’s killing, on the other hand, remains unsolved.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said should Generoso’s murder be deemed related to his work as a broadcaster, he would be the 14th media practitioner killed in the line of duty under the Duterte administration and the 187th since 1986. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, with reports from Visayas Today)

DOJ dismisses complaint vs Catanduanes gov over 1st media killing under Duterte

By Lottie Salarda

“We were not surprised anymore,” Catanduanes journalist Marlon Suplig said after learning that the Department of Justice in Manila dismissed the murder complaint against Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua and others over the murder of Catanduanes Now Publisher Larry Que in 2016.

What surprised them was the failure of the DOJ to notify them almost a year after its resolution, Suplig said.

Contrary to the Rules on Criminal Procedure requiring only probable cause for a case to be filed, Assistant State Prosecutor Alejandro Daguiso in a resolution dated October 30, 2017, said there is insufficiency of evidence presented by the complainants and it will be unfair to hold the respondents for trial.

Que was killed after writing a column alleging the negligence of the local officials over the discovery of a major shabu laboratory in the province.

He was the first vitim of media killing under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The victim was shot by a motorcycle men-riding in tandem at around 9:30 in the morning near his workplace in Virac, Catanduanes.

On May 2, 2017, Edralyn Pangilinan, Que’s common-law wife filed a murder case against Cua, police officer Vincent Tacorda, Cua’s right-hand Prince Lim Subion and other “John Does”.

Gov. Cua (right, in gray shirt) announces his candidacy for governorship in the 2019 local elections. (Photo by Radyo Natin-Virac, used with permission)

After his arrest last year, Tacorda admitted he was instructed to kill Que under the guise of “Operation Tokhang” by Cua through his right-hand man Subion.

Que received death threats from Lim Subion prior to the incident.

According to Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) Executive Director Joel Egco, Tacorda faced a robbery and extortion charges because he allegedly asked the family for 10 million pesos in exchange for evidence of Que’s death.

The extortion case filed against Tacorda was likewise dismissed. He denied all his extrajudicial confessions in his affidavit.

The complainants said they did not receive a copy of the resolution.

Suplig said they did not know that their complaint was already dismissed almost a year ago as they were not given copies.

It was Cua’s camp who announced the dismissal nearly two months before the filing of certificates of candidacies for the 2019 local and national polls.

The incumbent governor is planning to run for the same post next year. #

Media groups reject media regulation

Media groups reject a proposal to regulate mass media through a so-called Magna Carta for journalists, as announced by a Malacañan official Friday.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) rejected outright the proposal of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) to regulate the profession “in the guise of a “Magna Carta.”

In reaction to a speech by PTFoMS executive director Joel Egco in Baguio City Friday, the groups said it was not the first time that such a measure is being proposed, which they have consistently opposed.

SunStar-Baguio reported Egco as saying the proposed measure would seek to professionalize journalism through qualifying and classifying exams.

“If you want to become a media personality, you will have to take an exam every six months to assess your qualification which would set either a managerial position or a corresponding salary level or grade equivalent to that of government,” Egco was quoted as saying.

Egco was addressing Northern Luzon journalists who attended a seminar on media safety protocols developed by the PTFoMS in light of the continuing threats against media workers.

He said that professionalizing the ranks of journalists by classifying them into three levels would lessen threats against them.

“With the qualifying exam, journalists can now be qualified as a level 1, 2 or 3, and depending on the vacant position to be applied, they can now for example apply for a reportorial position which is level 2 while obtaining a level 1 qualification,” Egco said.

Saying that while it does not question Egco’s intent, the NUJP, however, said the proposed “Magna Carta,” which goes so far as to set salary grades depending on “competency,” is fraught with danger.

The group added that the proposal would allow the government to determine who can or cannot be a journalist, which is totally anathema to a profession that can thrive only in independence.

The CEGP for its part said the proposed Magna Carta is a misguided attempt by President Rodrigo Duterte’s “politically erratic regime, known for its pseudo-journalists, trolls, fake news and manipulation of public opinion.”

The student journalists said that the Duterte government is in no position to dictate on the media since its own “biases and sensibilities are geared towards the creation of state-sponsored fake news that dumb down the toiling masses.”

A Philippine Press Institute officer, meanwhile, said on a social media post that their group has already rejected the so-called Magna Carta a long time ago.

“’Levelling’ has nothing to do with quality of journalism. We should [instead] care for the following: welfare and protection, ethical practice, and truth-telling,” PPI executive director Ariel Sabellino said.

The NUJP added it cannot allow government the opportunity to meddle in any way in the profession and urged journalists as well as media owners to unite in opposing what it called a clear threat to freedom of the press and of expression. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bislig mayor eyed in broadcaster’s slay

A mayor may face investigations for the killing of a broadcaster and the wounding of his companion in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur Tuesday night.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) said slain broadcaster Christopher Lozada has formally notified them of death threats he received from Bislig City Mayor Librado Navarro before his death.

According to PTFoMs, Lozada informed them the mayor texted him “to leave Bislig if you do not want to die” and that “he would step down with Lozada who will go to the cemetery since his days are numbered.”

“As a matter of policy, PTFoMS presumes Lozada’s death as a media killing and falls under its mandate in relation to Administrative Order No. 1 (AO1) of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to protect the life, liberty, and security of media workers,” its statement on the killing yesterday said.

PTFoMS issued a red-flag letter warning Navarro but Lozada was killed on the night the letter was sent to the mayor.

Aside from informing the PTFoMS his life was being threatened by the mayor, Lozada also repeatedly alleged on his Facebook account Navarro’s threats against him.

PTFoMS’s red flag letter to Navarro ordered the local executive to “desist from threatening Christopher Lozada” adding, “in case any untoward incident happens to him, we will include you (the mayor) as possible perpetrator of the same.”

Lozada, host of Prime Broadcasting Network DXBF’s radio program “Kuskos-Batikos,” was shot together with his companion Honey Faith Tuyco Indog on their way home on board their Toyota Vios with Plate No. LGY 124 at Purok 5, Barangay Coleto, Bislig City where he resided.

Lozada led the filing of a complaint against Navarro and 16 other city hall officials with the Office of the Ombudsman which subsequently found the mayor guilty of graft and corruption and ordered his dismissal.

Lozada visited the regional Department of Interior and Local Government office Monday to follow up on the Ombudsman’s order.

“We learned he went to the DILG the day before he was killed to press the agency to immediately serve the dismissal order, which sources say triggered the ambush. He even posted on social media photos of the said visit to DILG,” PTFoMS said.

Navarro claimed he is innocent about Lozada’s killing.

Mayor claims innocence

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in Cagayan de Oro City, Navarro maintained his innocence and even condemned Lozada’s killing.

“I can hold my head up high and say I am innocent and my conscience is clear,” Navarro said Wednesday.

Navarro was in Cagayan de Oro Tuesday to attend the three-day 14th National Organic Agriculture Congress (NOAC) of the League of Organic Agriculture of Municipalities and Cities of the Philippines where he is executive vice president.

“He is like a son to me,” Navarro said of Lozada, whom he claimed was “very close” to him as they were related.

In fact, he told PNA, his family was supportive of Lozada politically.

In a Facebook post, Lozada said he had nothing personal against the mayor, also saying they were in fact related.

On Oct. 14, a few days before he was killed, however, Lozada posted on his Facebook account a graphic containing an alleged order by Navarro to have him killed for P85,000 which resulted in a heated exchange of comments between them.

The following day, Oct. 15, Lozada posted a screenshot of a text message from an unknown source saying he only had 95 days to live.

Navarro has filed three counts of libel case against Lozada in 2012 in relation to the work-related and personal criticisms Lozada hurled against him on-air.

The cases are still being tried in court.

“I am open to any investigation and I will face in court anybody who’s interested to file (cases against me),” Navarro told PNA, adding he would “look into it (Lozada’s killing)” and order “a fair and proper investigation of the case be extended to the family so the truth will come out.”

Impunity

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Lozada’s killing, if work-related, may be the fifth case of media killing under the Rodrigo Duterte government and the 178th case of media killing since 1986.

 In a statement Thursday, the NUJP said Lozada’s murder shows how impunity has become so entrenched in the Philippines.

“That Lozada’s killers got him indicates that they were not the least bit worried about being caught,” the NUJP said.

“As experience has taught us, most often the reason for this is that the killers are under the protective mantle of someone powerful or influential enough who is also most likely is the mastermind,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bicol broadcaster survives attack

Carlos ‘Caloy’ Sasis. (Photo by Angel de Mesa, Baretang Bikolnon)

A Bicol broadcaster survived an attack by two gunmen earlier this week as he was about to park his car in front of their radio station in Legazpi City.

Carlos Sasis, 41, anchor of daily radio program “Dos Manos” over Zagitsit News FM 100.3 told independent media outfit Baretang Bikolnon he heard gunshots and bullets hitting the wheels of his car just as he arrived at the station.

Sasis added he saw a bulky gunman trying to reload his gun after the first volley of fire.

The victim said he believed the attack was meant to harass him, “because if they really wanted to kill me, they should have just shot me straight, not (at) my car.”

Baretang Bikolnon quoted a witness as saying the gunmen had coffee at an eatery in front of the radio station along Imelda C. Roces Avenua in Barangay Gogon before the shooting.

Asked for possible motives behind the attack, Sasis said he himself was puzzled.

“I cannot think of any reason for them to do this to me. Personally, I do not aggravate anyone, even at my service as a barangay official,” he stated.

Sasis is a councilor of Barangay Cabangan, Camalig, Albay Province.

Police recovered three spent cartridges and an unspent bullet from the scene.

Baretang Bikolnon reported the police is in possession of a “clear footage from the CCTV.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines issued an alert on the attack Friday.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) for its part said they have already sent a team to Legazpi City Thursday to conduct an investigation.

“We are on it,” PTFoMS executive director and Presidential Communications Office Undersecretary Jose Joel M. Sy Egco said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva / Photos by Angel de Mesa, Baretang Bikolnon)