Red-tagging of veteran PDI reporter hit
MANILA, Philippines — The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Tuesday slammed allegations made by Jeffrey Celiz, the so-called star witness of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, that its former chair Nestor Burgos Jr., a Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) reporter, is a member of the armed underground movement.
In a statement, the NUJP said it was likely that Celiz, who had identified himself as former New People’s Army (NPA) cadre “Ka Eric” to senators during a hearing last week, was “parrot[ing] the fictions handed him, liberally sprinkled with concoctions, most likely to get into his handlers’ good graces.”
Celiz Red-tagged Burgos, who now serves as one of the NUJP’s national directors, last week in an interview which was released in a video by police. He said the Inquirer reporter for Western Visayas was “part of the regional propaganda machinery of the Regional Party Committee” of Panay and of the “underground movement attempting to overthrow the present government.”
Celiz spoke on a Philippine National Police radio program where he accused Burgos, 49, of recruiting him as a cadre of the communist movement.
In the interview, he also talked about how the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) under its founding chair, Jose Maria Sison, recruited progressive individuals. He likened the underground organization to a “syndicate.”
He reiterated his allegations that progressive organizations like the Gabriela and the Kabataan party list groups were fronts for the underground communist movement.
His accusations came shortly after Burgos wrote the story, “Getting to know the government’s finger-pointing cadre” in the Nov. 5 issue of the Inquirer.
Burgos reported on Celiz’s journey from being a popular activist and former head of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Panay Island to becoming a politician’s consultant and then as star witness against progressive groups.
Burgos does not dispute that he and Celiz knew each other since their days as campus journalists.
“I categorically deny that I was one or among those who recruited him in the underground movement and that we were together in the youth bureau of the CPP/NPA,’’ Burgos said.
“Even in my student days at UPV (University of the Philippines Visayas), I never joined militant organizations. I even ran and won as an officer of the college student council under the Partido sang Mainuswagon nga Bumulutho, which was the party running against the militant Sandigan para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan,’’ he added.
The NUJP said that not only were Celiz’s claims “preposterous, he all but confesses that he and his handlers do not have any evidence against those he slanders when he insists on the validity of public vilification, or what he calls the ‘court of public opinion.’”
“In doing so, they brazenly trample on the basic rights of Nestor and the others Celiz slanders, including that which this liar so disdainfully dismisses but which is among the cornerstones of the democracy he purports to fight for, the right to due process, and put the lives of Nestor and everyone else Celiz slanders in danger,” it said.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said it was “gravely concerned” about the Red-tagging of Burgos by Celiz.
“We take exception to the self-serving allegations made by Celiz against Burgos, who has been on our reportorial staff since 2001, and express deep concern for his safety,” the Inquirer said.
“Such sweeping statements may put Burgos and other journalists in danger from forces that are acting with impunity and violence against those erroneously tagged as enemies of the government,” the statement said.
“This latest allegation will not distract the Inquirer from the pursuit of its mission to provide factual coverage and responsible reporting to its readers.” INQ
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