Philippine media groups have filed administrative and criminal complaints against officials of the government’s anti-insurgency task force over its “baseless and malicious red-tagging” of activists and journalists.
Altermidya and its allied groups, in a complaint-affidavit filed in the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday, said the practice not only infringed on their rights but also endangered their lives.
They accused National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) executive director Allen Capuyan, spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., and Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, oppression and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and violation of the Administrative Code of 1987.
On Dec. 7, an administrative complaint was also filed against the three accused in the Ombudsman by party-list Rep. Sarah Elago and human rights advocacy group Karapatan.
Altermidya described itself as a duly registered non-stock, non-profit corporation founded by veteran independent journalists, artists, and members of the academe.
The complaint by the group cited the statements issued by Parlade against the association as well as a presentation by Capuyan before a Senate hearing which included Altermidya in the organizational structure of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“These acts of red-tagging by the NTF-ELCAC and its officers have endangered the existence and operations of [our member media outfits]as well as the very lives of their staff,” it read.
The complaint also cited the arrest of Manila Today news site editor Lady Ann Salem in Quezon City last week and that of journalist and Altermidya member, Frenchie Mae Cumpio in Tacloban City in February.
Also arrested with Salem in separate predawn police raids on Dec. 10 were six union organisers.
“For publishing critical views and perspectives on current affairs and engaging in pro-people journalism, complainants have been unfairly vilified, even as they are clearly legal organizations of media practitioners—unarmed civilians—whose espousal of press freedom is essential to Philippine democracy,” the complaint added.
Apart from NTF-ELCAC officials, Quezon City Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert has also drawn controversy for issuing several warrants that led to the arrest of Red-tagged activists and journalists such as Salem.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, however, expressed support for Villavert saying, “We (in the Department of Defence, or DND) firmly believe that a judge of the honourable Villavert’s calibre does not issue warrants without probable cause.”
“The DND gives its full support to Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert in the face of the Makabayan bloc’s baseless accusations that she had issued irregular warrants against activists and progressive groups,” Lorenzana said in a statement on Friday.
The defence secretary’s statement came after a progressive bloc in the House of Representatives have accused Villavert of turning her court into a “warrants factory”, blaming it for the spate of arrests.
Lorenzana said that by complaining about Villavert’s actions, the Makabayan lawmakers essentially proved that they are front organizations of the communist insurgency.
Amid questions raised over the warrants issued by the Quezon City judge, the Philippine Bar Association on Thursday issued a statement calling on local court judges to be “deliberate, circumspect and prudent in the discharge of [their]constitutional duty” to serve as “our people’s shield against unreasonable searches and seizures.” (Source: INQUIRER.Net)