*Statement of National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemning Army’s attempt to bar Davao Today’s reporter, Kath M. Cortez, from covering Marawi protest released on 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.
Atty. Jocelyn Clemente, Acting Chair
Ms. Dabet Panelo, Secretary General
NUJP Hotline +639175155991