House bloc wants raps vs Tacloban-based journalist, rights activists junked
MANILA, Philippines — Three members of the House of Representatives’ Makabayan bloc are pushing to drop all the charges against Tacloban-based journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and four activists, calling for an end to the “weaponization of the law to stifle press freedom.”
Rep. France Castro of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Rep. Arlene Brosas of the Gabriela Women’s Party and Rep. Raoul Manuel of Kabataan party-list filed House Resolution No. 752 on Tuesday, which marks the third year of the respondents’ incarceration since being arrested for charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
READ: 3 years on: Groups reignite call to release Tacloban journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio
The resolution calls on the House of Representatives to “express its sense that the Philippine justice system, including all courts and quasi-judicial agencies, should speedily exhaust all means to drop charges against the ‘Tacloban 5,’ including community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, and stop the weaponization of the law to stifle press freedom.”
Cumpio was among the progressives in the so-called “Tacloban 5″ arrested on Feb. 7, 2020, in an Eastern Vista staff house in Tacloban City, Leyte, following a string of raids in what the military claimed were “identified Communist Terrorist Group safe houses.”
Also arrested were rights activists Marielle Domequil, Alexander Philip Abinguna, Marissa Cabaljo and Mira Legion.
READ: Journalist, 4 rights activists arrested in Tacloban raids
“Various laws have been weaponized in an apparent attempt to keep Cumpio and her co-accused in prison,” the resolution read.
The lawmakers cited the move of the Anti-Money Laundering Council in 2022 to charge Cumpio and Domequil with a non-bailable case of terrorist financing.
“These cases sit atop the illegal possession of firearms and explosive charges that are proceeding at a slow pace due, in no small part, to the delaying tactics of the prosecution, which no doubt wants to keep Cumpio and Domequil in jail,” they added.
It was also pointed out in the resolution that prior to their arrest, Cumpio and her co-accused had been subject to “incessant red-tagging and had documented harassment and surveillance incidents that human groups believe were committed by state agents.”
“This is part of what has been observed as a systematic way to capture what they consider ‘enemies of the state.’ A cursory review of several cases filed against progressive groups and individuals in recent years and months reveals how the same old tactics and narratives have been used and reused to nab individuals critical of the government.”
The three years of Cumpio’s youth spent in jail, according to the Makabayan lawmakers, have affected the reportage and operations of Eastern Vista, the regional media group Cumpio worked for.
This, they noted, is a “textbook example of how illegal arrests directly trample the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press.”
“Three years of incarceration and the slow pace of the criminal proceedings caused several other dire ramifications to Cumpio and the rest of the Tacloban 5,” the House bloc said.
They also cited a recent Supreme Court minute resolution on the case of Gigi Reyes, the former chief-of-staff of erstwhile Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, which pointed out that prolonged detention of persons without any progress in the case lodged against them is “vexatious, capricious and oppressive” and “thus, infringing upon [their] right to liberty.”
READ: SC on Gigi Reyes’ case: Nine years is far too long in detention
In view of the resolution on Reyes’ case, the Makabayan lawmakers also sought to ask the Supreme Court to conduct a cursory review on all pending cases in Philippine courts, particularly those deemed “politically motivated, which may be violating the right to speedy trial of the accused and submit to the House of Representatives a report on such, with the end-view of addressing this grave pockmark in our nation’s justice system.”
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