Broadcaster files raps vs. ComVal legislator at Ombudsman

Natin broadcaster Roel Sembrano filed the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao in the presence of his colleagues from the tri-media.

Sembrano recounted to reporters his encounter with Barte on Oct. 24 at the announcer's booth.

He said he was on his daily morning program, Haring Lungsod Ikaw and Nasayod, when Barte, with his wife and daughter, barged into the announcer's booth and mauled him, even drawing out a gun and pointed it towards him.

Sembrano reportedly criticized Barte on air for siding with a candidate for the barangay elections when it was supposed to be non-partisan.

The attack, condemned by the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, is seen as a show of the continuing attempts to curtail the freedom of expression and how the members of the media have become easy targets of such attacks by abusive public officials.

Barte, in a text message to MindaNews Thursday, said he acknowledged Sembrano's right to file the complaint.

“But an unlicensed, unethical, biased, for-hire mercenary cannot find refuge in a competent court,” he said.

The NUJP stood by Sembrano.

"What happens to Sembrano is a matter of concern to all journalists because the one who did it is a public official who should know his actions must be open to public scrutiny; and that it is part of the job of every journalist to guard that mandate," the NUJP said in a statement Nov. 8.

"That the official in question attacked a journalist right in the announcer's booth and on air is simply intolerable. An announcer's booth is to a broadcaster what a pulpit is to a priest," the NUJP stressed.

"Actions of public officials like Barte are dangerous. It is the kind of mentality that threatens the democracy that we vowed to protect. Such acts of a public official must be condemned, not only by the media as a sector, but also by fellow public officials,” according to the statement.

NUJP has called on journalists "to strengthen our unity and protect our ranks in the light of the continuing attacks that are happening right now."

"It's only through our unity with our fellow journalists that we can preserve whatever is left of the press freedom that has constantly been attacked and threatened in the country," the statement said.

The Union of Peoples' Lawyers in Mindanao backed the filing of the complaint against the provincial legislator.

Lawyer Marco Buena, Ombudsman spokesperson and graft investigator, said they would evaluate the complaint until next week to weigh if it is "sufficient in form and substance."

He outlined possibilities for the respondent, from penalties, suspension or dismissal if the case is administrative or maximum of imprisonment if the case is forwarded to criminal court.

Buena said Barte would be given time to respond and file a counter-affidavit along with a due process in the preliminary proceedings.