Police, army condemned for red-tagging Tagum radio personnel

Apr. 15, 2014

Davao City – Two Tagum City reporters and their news director were reportedly harassed by police intelligence officers and a military spokesperson respectively, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said.

The NUJP Davao City Chapter said two reporters of Radyo ni Juan FM Tagum City were held and interrogated by intelligence officers in the Davao del Norte Provincial Police Station after they were supposedly trying to get police blotter reports.

Reporter Erwin Batucan told Davao Today about the incident on April 8 when he and Jojo Gales went to the provincial police intending to get newsworthy stories from police reports around the province.

But instead they were passed around from the police’s information office, investigation department until they were asked to look for a certain officer at the intelligence office.

He said upon arriving at the intelligence office, they met two police officers whom they approached.

“We asked if this officer was around, but they did not reply. When they asked us why, we again told them we were reporters; we were wearing our station ID and we told them our purpose was to ask for police reports for our broadcast news,” said Batucan.

Batucan said that the personnel instead held them for questioning.

Batucan said the police made him and Gales sit down and filled up a paper about personal identification.

“They told us to write down our names, addresses, birthdates, where we studied and where did we work before. Then they asked details of our station, who the manager is,” he said.

He said that while they were being asked questions, one of the officers stared at them intently.

He said the officers let them go after 40 minutes, and they were not even given police reports.

Upon reporting the incident to the station, news director Ailene Manipol immediately called up Provincial Deputy Director Jessie Estrada about this.

Estrada reportedly told Manapol that this had to do with the station getting heat from police and military officials for being “leftist” in their programs such as the coverage in Talaingod.

RnJ Tagum manager Io Ming Correa questioned what is being leftist in such coverage.

“What’s being leftist in our coverage in Talaingod when it’s a major issue here in Davao del Norte?” asked Correa.

Correa and Batucan also said there were incidents of men aboard motorcycles and vehicles that would park in front of the station and would peek at the station.

In another incident, Manapol was also rebuffed in an interview with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza.

Manapol was interviewing Paniza on the phone to get the military’s side on the allegations of bombing of the Lumad community in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

But Paniza refused to be interviewed and criticized the station.

“Si Ka Oris na lang i-interview, kay mao man nay customer ninyo. Dili ko magpa-interview kay biased mo. Gina-monitor namo inyong istasyon. (You interview [NDF Mindanao spokesperson] Ka Oris because he is your customer. I don’t want to be interviewed because you are biased. We’ve been monitoring your station),” Paniza’s response went as recorded by Manapol.

But Paniza in an interview with Sun Star Davao explained his response.

“Yes hindi na ako nagpa-interview sa kanila. The Eastmincom has been trying to reach the station before pero hindi nila ako sinasagot until such time na sila na mismo ang tumawag sa akin, so pinagbigyan ko yung tawag nila (Yes, I refused to be interviewed by them. The Eastmincom has been trying to reach the station before but they did not respond until such time when they called me now, so I tried to obliged),” Paniza said.

Paniza added that he did not like the questioning of the radio station.

“I’m not obliged to answer all their questions. Yung mga tanong din naman kasi nila (Their questions) are not for me to answer. And I noticed, every time na may tanong sila like incidents in some far–flung areas, the questions seemed to be biased in a way na may gusto silang ibang palabasin sa storya nila (everytime they have questions on some far flung areas, the questions are biased in a way that they wanted the stories to come out the way they wanted it). I told them try to ask the NDF since the questions that were raised are not for me to answer,” Paniza said.

But NUJP Davao City Chapter Secretary Jeffrey Tupas in a statement criticized the Eastmincom and Davao del Norte for “arrogance behind their uniform” over this incident.

“These incidents again showed the usual response of the state security when they are being asked of issues on human rights committed by their colleagues. They again resort to the usual brandishing of such journalists as “biased” and “leftist”, and profiling journalists through interrogation and spying which RnJ Tagum has also experienced in the past three months,” said Tupas.

“But such response brings a chilling effect to media workers.  State security forces here in Davao have likewise labeled human rights defenders as “leftists” and “fronts of communist groups”, and these defenders have either ended up with cases and warrants of arrest filed against them, or worse faced bullets,” Tupas added.

He also said the harassment sends a chilling effect to media workers in Davao del Norte who recently mourned the killing of radio broadcaster Rogelio ‘Tata’ Butalid last December.

The national office of the NUJP demanded the Davao del Norte Provincial Police to identify their intelligence division personnel who interrogated and detained Batucan and Gales, had them investigated and subject to disciplinary action.

They also demanded the police to hand over to Radyo ni Juan the information “illegally extracted” from the reporters.

The group demanded a “notarized promise” from the provincial police to end all surveillance of the radio station and its personnel, as well as a public and written apology from the provincial police director to the station and to the media community in Davao del Norte.

The NUJP also demanded that the same investigation by the Army on Paniza

“We demand that the Army place this spokesman under investigation for endangering the lives of civilians in violation both of his sworn duty and of the laws of the land… We also demand that the military, in particular the Philippine Army, end its irresponsible and dangerous Red baiting against Radyo ni Juan and apologize to the station for placing the life of its personnel in mortal danger,” said NUJP national chair Rowena Paraan.

“We put both the police and military units in Davao del Norte on notice that we shall hold them accountable for any harm that may befall our Radyo ni Juan colleagues as a result of their irresponsible and illegal attempts to intimidate media and curtail press freedom,” added Paraan. (davaotoday.com)

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