2 Mindanao journalists, IFI priest bewail Red-tagging
DAVAO CITY—Two journalists and a priest in Mindanao on Thursday expressed concerns for their safety after being tagged as members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
Rev. Rolando Abejo of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in Cagayan de Oro City said he recently got couriered materials linking him and journalists Froilan Gallardo and Cong Corrales to the NPA.
Gallardo writes for Davao City-based MindaNews and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Corrales, known to friends as Cocong, is associate editor of Cagayan de Oro-based Mindanao Gold Star Daily.
The materials received by Abejo also vilified Beverly Musni and her daughter, Czarina, both human rights lawyers based in Cagayan de Oro.
“Stop the Red-tagging and the vilification,” Abejo said in a social media post.
On Tuesday, Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma urged a stop to Red-tagging.
“Let us avoid Red-tagging because those in the media and [those advocating] human rights continue their work to help solve the root cause of society’s problems,” Ledesma said in a 5-minute video released by the archdiocese in time for Wednesday’s feast of St. Augustine, patron of Cagayan de Oro.
Addressed to CDO press club
Corrales said he also received a couriered flyer that was addressed to the Cagayan de Oro Press Club. It came from a certain Danilo Tirso Mantangan of Sitio Camansi, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental, who indicated mobile phone number 0909-1020123 in the sender’s information.
The Inquirer learned that a similar material was sent to the Cagayan de Oro City Hall.
The flyer indicated that it was produced by “Black Mamba” of the “MAT-NMR Press Club Chapter.” It said there was a P1-million price on the head of Corrales, who was supposedly facing a criminal case in Surigao’s “Regional Trial Court Branch 01-1.”
Gallardo, a veteran in covering Mindanao’s armed conflicts, said he was at a loss on why he was being identified as a member of the NPA. He said this could have been due to his recent reports on a raid by the rebels on the security outpost of a power generation company.
His reports included information about the attack provided by the rebels.
Not taking sides
Gallardo stressed that as a professional journalist, he had maintained contact with the rebels in order to get their side of a story involving insurgents.
“Targeting me and colleague Cong Corrales endangers our lives. Aside from having contacts with the rebels, I and Corrales, like any journalist, do not take sides in the conflict. If we do, this will take out our neutrality and we will lose our status as civilians,” Gallardo explained.
“By tagging [us] as supporters of the NPA, we become targets for liquidation from state and nonstate actors,” Gallardo said.
Corrales and members of his family had been tagged several times this year as NPA rebels.
Corrales believes his recent column on the treatment of Higaonon tribal evacuees could have renewed the Red-tagging and hatred being spread against him.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines urged authorities to ensure the safety of Gallardo and Corrales.
CHR denounces threats
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) denounced the threats against the two journalists, saying: “An attack against them is an attack against our right to truth and the right to be fully informed.”
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said journalism was “essential to peace, sustainable development and justice” and reporters travel to “the most dangerous places” to give voice to the most marginalized sectors.
“There is a need to ensure a safe and enabling media environment to foster a free and balanced reporting of the real state of affairs in the country and to hold people in power to account. And of course, there is no complete democracy without a genuine media freedom,” she added. —WITH A REPORT FROM RYAN ROSAURO
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