NUJP Davao decries harassment of RMN-DXDC Davao media workers

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STATEMENT: We decry the harassment of media workers of Radio Mindanao Network-DXDC Davao station who have taken to constituting themselves into a union to protect their rights due to recent repressive actions of RMN top management officials and one of the Company owners.

On September 6, RMN Davao station manager Dodong Solis received a memo terminating him after 12 years of service, without pay. It should be considered that RMN-DXDC Davao consistently topped ratings under Solis’s watch.

That this blow came even if RMN Davao topped the latest AC Nielsen survey makes the termination order highly suspect.

In this latest survey, RMN-DXDC Davao garnered a high .75 rating or number 1 among 40 radio stations in Davao City, the results owing to its “progressive” brand of programming that draws attention to the lives and simple joys of the common folk, their plight and their struggles.

The same brand of programming has gained the station a consistent number 1 popularity in Davao City and the whole of Southern Mindanao for the past several years under Solis’s watch.

The same brand of programming delivered for the RMN Company more than the monthly sales quotas and revenues it required on its provincial stations.

It will be recalled that Solis had been vehement in opposing attempts of a top RMN official’s to tinker with broadcast content in favor of a presidential candidate last elections with whom the said official had contracted millions of advertising deals as its account executive.

Solis vehemently refused this top official’s orchestration last elections, such as surreptitiously peddling out P20,000 for station managers a week in exchange for towing a black propaganda campaign line against his leading opponent in a presidential race.

The same official also forced a script on station managers, including Solis, regarding how this black propaganda in favor the former’s politician-client, must be carried out, a thing Solis disobeyed in deference to the ethical tenets of media practice.

The same top official had been repeatedly proposing that RMN DXDC Davao provincial reporters double as account executives, a move that Solis staunchly opposed.

Also, actions of members of a political family in Davao City (with whom Solis is known to be a critic of) on top RMN management officials in Makati tell that they wanted Solis out in Davao.

Since then, another RMN top management official, who also happens to be one of the network owners, had been telling the staff that the posts of provincial reporters are unnecessary. He was actually just repeating an earlier proposal by the other official who declared he wanted to make provincial reporters double as account executives.

This official, the one who also belongs to the family owning the network had been hurling insults on the RMN Davao staff regarding its programming, calling it “poorly conceived.” Again, this official did so in spite of the fact that RMN DXDC Davao has been the topping the surveys.

By doing so, RMN media workers could not help but think this top management official/one of the owners, is merely engaging in fault-finding to fulfill a scheme he had been insinuating, which is to cut down the number of workers.

As this clearly poses a threat to job security, media workers were prompted to find a way to protect their ranks. That is, constituting themselves into a union.

The bigwigs at RMN should have realized that the revenues enjoyed by the media company could not have been achieved were it not for the painstaking work and dedication of its workers.

Ironically, the wages received by RMN Davao station workers for the backbreaking job, amounts only to a small fraction of the huge revenues the workers turned in to the RMN Company.

In fact all the personnel’s salary combined, plus the expenses required to run operations of the station amount only to a measly 20%-25% on the average, of the total revenues that RMN DXDC Davao remit monthly to the Company.

It is no secret that Dodong Solis is a “progressive-minded” radio broadcaster, in fact one of the most of his kind in Davao and RMN Davao’s brand of programming unlike the mainstream fare, is unique and out of the box. It is biased in giving the underprivileged and neglected sectors the chance for their conditions and calls to be heard in the airwaves, as well as the privilege to be provided with information helpful in making them understand the truth about their situation. It is a brand of programming that endeared them to the common folk so to speak and kept them on the top ratings.

Colleagues at RMN-DXDC Davao also figured prominently in protest actions against any move by government authority to curtail the rights of journalists and freedom of the press, such as the mass actions held to defy the onerous Arroyo Presidential proclamation 1017 masking as a lawful order but was actually designed to muzzle the press and control broadcast content.

The campaign to free jailed broadcaster Lex Adonis for libel in 2008 would not have succeeded without the tedious support of RMN-DXDC Davao staff, in unity with media workers of Davao City.

RMN-DXDC-Davao colleagues were also at the forefront in the fight for the protection of colleagues whose very lives were put in the line of work, among others, Compostela Valley broadcaster Roel Sembrano who was physically attacked inside a radio booth by a politician he criticized on air in 2008; the harassment of RMN-DXDC news director Elgin Damasco himself who got death threats for his reportage of human rights abuses by Philippine military authorities in Paquibato District in Davao City, including the killing, abduction and rape of a rebel leader’s daughter, Rebelyn Pitao.

The prosecution of the Dennis Cuesta murder case, one of the successful cases among media killings in the country would not have been possible if not for the efforts RMN-DXDC-Davao colleagues, as well as their all out support in the ongoing struggle for the prosecution of media murders that happened recently in the Davao region – the case of radioman Jessie Camangyan who was murdered last June 14, and followed by the killing of Nestor Bedolido, a tabloid reporter based in Digos City on June 19, among others.

In the light of these incidents, we could only see the move to suspend Solis, who also anchors a daily primetime radio program—as a machination intended to silence him and the brand of programming that RMN Davao Station workers have collectively formulated at his steering, including a move to censure him for his recent show of staunch opposition to attempts of media owners to manipulate broadcast content.

Likewise, we see this as an underhanded move to discredit his position as the manager of a network station which has been popular because of its programming that give voice to the people considered voiceless in society.

Just like what is happening at ABS-CBN, the repression experienced at RMN-DXDC Davao is a stark reminder of the reality that the Philippine media still belongs to capitalist hands where media workers are treated as nothing but means to amass profits.

This is as if the dangerous working conditions that media workers face at present where truth-tellers in our society have become subjects of liquidations and attacks of powerful entities who become subjects of criticisms and reportage, are not enough.

A condition where the economic rights of media workers are threatened only serves to undermine a free press even more.

Our fellow media workers at RMN-DXDC Davao have been known for militancy in the protection of the rights and welfare of the working press and it is our turn to give them our support now.

We call on our colleagues to support beleaguered fellow workers at RMN-DXDC Davao and unite with them in resisting the harassment they are facing from media establishment owners who do not have respect and dignity for the working press.

Let us stand by them in these difficult times and unite with them in their struggles.

Let our unity be a reminder that capitalists may own the media establishment but they do not have the liberty to dictate upon the content of every outlet’s journalistic output.

Let our unity serve as a reminder to these owners of media establishments that, over profits, at greater stake is the interest of the public, for whom every working journalist is only beholden to serve.

Let our unity be a reminder of our continuing struggle for the media to be allowed to freely report on events, and to freely and vigorously comment on them, in order to enable a free people to protect itself from the inevitable abuse of power, and Democracy itself; that Constitutional right to ensure a free press should be observed at all times; that the role of press is so important in a free society that journalist is the only job singled out for constitutional protection precisely because no less, history has proven, that civil liberties are irreparably impaired without press freedom.

We call on all sectors of society to rally behind the cause of the working journalists because only a free press can be the people’s defense against deception, intimidation, and subjugation from forces inimical to people’s welfare.

Let us unite to free the working press from the burdens of fear and poverty! BICOLTODAY.com

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