July 31, 2018
It is a dark time for democracy and freedom when journalists are treated as criminals – arrested, beaten up, threatened, charged and prevented from doing their work – as happened to our colleagues who covered the violent dispersal of striking workers of NutriAsia and their supporters in Marilao, Bulacan Monday afternoon, July 30.
Footage obtained by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines tends to show that this brazen assault on working journalists – therefore an attack on press freedom itself – was deliberate and not merely triggered by the heat of the moment.
Our colleagues – four from the alternative media (Hiyas Saturay, Eric Tandoc, Avon Ang and Psalty Caluza) and one from UP campus publication Scientia (Jon Angelo Bonifacio)– were harassed and arrested. Video footage shows a policeman grabbing Saturay, who was on assignment for the AlterMidya Network, and dragging her away even after she had informed him of who she was.
Rosemarie Alcaraz of Radyo Natin-Guimba, who is also the secretary-general of our Nueva Ecija chapter, was hit by truncheon. NutriAsia guards also dragged Bonifacio, causing him to stumble and sustain injuries and threatened to beat up Kodao Productions cameraman Joseph Cuevas with police personnel not even attempting to prevent a clear threat to life and limb.
As if these weren’t bad enough, when Jola Diones-Mamangun of Kodao Productions went to the Meycauayan police station where those arrested, including our colleagues, were detained, she was denied access to them as officers uttered the obviously false and ludicrous claim that drugs and guns had been recovered from the people they had picked up.
Superintendent Santos Mera, the Meycauayan police chief, was also quoted as saying media needed permits to cover events at his station, a requirement we are sure he very well knows is unconstitutional. Even after their identities have been established, our arrested colleagues were among those subjected to inquest proceedings by the Bulacan police today.
We reiterate our demand for the authorities to withdraw the charges and release our colleagues and end this outrageous farce against them. Unless the authorities now consider journalism a crime and its practitioners as dangerous felons.
We urge the community of independent Filipino journalists to rally around our beleaguered colleagues and send a clear signal that we will not allow any assault on freedom of the press and of expression to pass unchallenged and will hold anyone responsible accountable.