AS THE National Union of Journalists of the Philippines marked the 32nd anniversary of our founding, a number of our members, including the deputy secretary general of our Nueva Ecija chapter, were attacked, threatened and arrested as they covered the violent dispersal of striking workers at the NutriAsia factory in Marilao, Bulacan Monday afternoon.
We denounce the security personnel of NutriAsia for deliberately targeting journalists and the Bulacan police not only for failing to prevent or stop this outrage from happening but, even worse, arresting four colleagues, making false claims about them, and then preventing other journalists from inquiring after them and covering their detention.
Nueva Ecija chapter deputy secretary general Rosemarie Alcaraz was covering the ecumenical service and the violence that followed it for Radyo Natin-Guimba. As she took video of the dispersal, a guard advised her to go behind them. However, when she complied, she was struck on her right thigh with a truncheon, driving her to seek shelter in a makeshift hut erected by the striking workers.
Joseph Cuevas, reporter of Kodao Productions, on the other hand, was confronted by guards who threatened to destroy his camera unless he stopped filming.
Both reporters were wearing identification cards that clearly marked them as journalists.
Meanwhile, colleagues on the ground have confirmed that among the 19 persons arrested during the dispersal and its aftermath were Hiyas Saturay, Eric Tandoc, Avon Ang and Psalty Caluza, who were on coverage for AlterMidya, and Jon Angelo Bonifacio of the UP Diliman publication Scientia.
Kodao and AlterMiday are NUJP affiliates.
When Jola Diones-Mamangun of Kodao Productions went to the Meycauayan police station, she was denied access to documents. And when she asked about her arrested AlterMidya colleagues, was told that drugs and guns had been recovered from them, an obviously false and ridiculous claim.
Other colleagues also quoted Meycauyan chief of police Supt. Santos Mera of claiming they needed permits before they could cover events at the police station.
The assault, threats and arrests of our colleagues is a clear attack on press freedom and highlights the increasing dangers journalists face in these increasingly troubled times.
We demand that the Meycauayan police immediately release Saturay, Tandoc, Ang, Caluza and Bonifacio. We demand just as strongly that they forget the ludicrous notion of filing trumped up criminal charges against our colleagues. It will surely backfire – and very badly – on you.
We likewise call on Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde to initiate an immediate investigation into this clear abuse of authority by his subordinates, particularly Mera, and impose the necessary sanctions.
It would bode ill for our already imperiled democracy if the very people sworn to serve and protect the citizenry are themselves responsible for violating our basic rights and liberties and fl outing the law.
We will extend all possible assistance to our beleaguered colleagues in making sure those responsible for this assault are held accountable.
(NUJP statement signed by chair Nonoy Espina)