NUJP calls out Army officer over Facebook post vs Inquirer reporter
MANILA, Philippines — The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) has called out an Army officer over his social media post against INQUIRER.net reporter Gabriel Pabico Lalu, who wrote an article about a statement of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) regarding a military operation in Palapag, Northern Samar.
For its part, INQUIRER.net expressed concern as well on the issue and will refer the matter to its legal staff.
Here is NUJP’s full statement released Saturday, June 27:
[Alert] Army colonel accuses reporter of ‘fake news’, asks if he is NPA ‘propagandist’
A ranking Army officer has accused a reporter of online news outfit INQUIRER.net of writing “fake news” and asked if he was a New People’s Army “propagandist.”
In a public Facebook post entitled “Propagandista ka ba ng NPA?”, Colonel Harold Cabunoc addressed Gabriel Pabico Lalu and said “Di kita palalampasin (I will not let you off).”
“Bakit di mo magawang ibalanse ang ginagawang istorya sa peryodiko? Sa mga komunista mo lang din kinuha ang isinawalat mong fake news na ‘critikal’ (sic) yang si Jolina Meraya alyas Jolina Calot ng League of Filipino Students! Nasaan ang side ng Army dyan?” Cabunoc wrote. He also asked: “I-correct mo ba yang kasinungalingan na naisulat mo Gabriel Pabico-Lalu?”
Cabunoc had taken exception to a June 27 article bylined by Lalu, “CHR slams alleged gov’t penchant for red-tagging after farmer’s slay,” in which the reporter quoted statements from Commission on Human Rights spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia and the human rights group Hustisya on the deaths of what the military said was a ranking NPA leader and his aide during a clash in Palapag, Northern Samar on June 20.
On June 21, the Inquirer carried a story on the clash exclusively carrying the military’s side on the deaths of Zalday Meraya, an alleged rebel finance officer, and Bebe Tobino. (Suspected NPA leader, aide, killed in Northern Samar firefight)
Contrary to Cabunoc’s claim that the Army’s side was not included in his story, Lalu did cite the military’s version. However, this was a follow-up that was about the CHR and Hustisya’s take on the June 20 incident.
These are the pertinent excerpts from Lalu’s article:
“CHR’s statement came after suspected NPA leader Zalday Meraya and his aide were killed in a supposed firefight with agents of the Philippine Army’s 20th Infantry Battalion in Palapag, Northern Samar on Saturday.”
“Authorities said that Meraya was the finance officer of SRC Arctic — an armed group that allegedly extorts money and targets government projects in Northern Samar’s coastal towns.”
In the article, De Guia was quoted as speaking out against “The state’s haphazard labeling of individuals as affiliated to communist or leftist terrorist groups (which) directly threatens the lives or safety of individuals” and also saying the CHR would conduct its own investigation into the incident following reports members of Meraya’s family, including his daughter Jolina Calot, a student at the University of Eastern Philippines and member of progressive group League of Filipino Students, had been wounded.
Hustisya, for its part, accused the military of firing at the home of Meraya.
The CHR and human rights are among Lalu’s beats.
Cabunoc is not the first military official to openly hint at journalists’ supposed rebel links or sympathies.
Government officials, including state security forces, have long been openly tagging, without presenting proof, critical media organizations and journalists as “legal fronts” or sympathizers of the communist rebel movement.
This practice of red-tagging has proven to have dangerous, even fatal, consequences for targeted individuals, especially members of legal activist groups.
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