More complaints filed against ‘Red-tagging’ task force
MANILA, Philippines — An association of media groups on Friday 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, which they said not only infringed on their rights but also endangered their lives.
In a complaint-affidavit filed in the Office of the Ombudsman, Altermidya and its allied groups 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 filed against them also in the Ombudsman by Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago and human rights advocacy group Karapatan.
Altermidya, represented by acting chair Rolando Tolentino, described itself as a duly registered nonstock, nonprofit corporation founded by veteran independent journalists, artists, and members of the academe.
Other network members named in the complaint include Alipato Media Center Inc., represented by Bulatlat managing editor Ronalyn Olea; Kodao Productions Organization Inc., represented by its executive director for online media Jola Diones-Mamangun; and Pinoy Media Center Inc., represented by editor in chief Kenneth Roland Guda.
The complaint cited the statements issued by Parlade against the association and posted on the NTF-Elcac’s Facebook page, as well as a presentation Capuyan made on Dec. 1 at a Senate hearing wherein he included Altermidya in the organizational structure of the Communist Party of the Philippines. It also drew attention to the statements made by Badoy against the media network.
“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 organizers.
“For publishing critical views and perspectives on current affairs and engaging in propeople 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.
In defense of Villavert
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.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, however, expressed support for Villavert, saying “we (in the Department of Defense, or DND) firmly believe that a judge of the honorable Villavert’s caliber 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.
Members of the Makabayan bloc at 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.” —NIKKA G. VALENZUELA AND PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU
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