Lawyer says integrity journalists’ biggest protection, hits arrest of journalists in Manila Peninsul

This is the statement of lawyer Arthur Abundiente, assistant dean of the College of Law of MSU-IIT in a Media Forum Saturday here at the conference hall of Civil Society Organization Forum for Peace.

The one-day forum, which was attended by 25 representatives from newspapers and radio stations in Iligan City and Marawi City, is part of the Mindanao Week of Peace celebration. 

“Unfortunately, there are many media practitioners who are paid, who’d sacrifice accuracy in the altar of sensationalism, and who become rabid apologists or protectors of the unscrupulous,” Abundiente lamented.

“They deserve the ridicule that they got when their loyalty is to the one who paid them and not to the people who listened to them,” he said.

The lawyer also challenged reporters here “not to make the profession dirtier than the persons you criticized.”

In the same forum human rights lawyer Ver Quimco lectured about libel and the available remedies for media practitioners if sued by public or private persons.

Quimco, who heads the Call for Justice, a radio-based legal education and promotion of human rights, clarified libel cases from defamation and cited numerous examples of libel cases for media to reflect on and learned from.

City councilor Orlando Maglinao, chair of the committee for human rights in the city council, said that he will facilitate human rights education for media practitioners here in partnership with the Commission on Human Rights next year.

Abundiente, meanwhile, also hit the arrest of several journalists who covered the takeover of Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City Thursday by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and other anti-Arroyo figures.

He said it was a setback for press freedom when media workers were hogtied simply because they covered an event.

“This kind of incident did not even occur during Martial rule and this attack to press freedom should not be countenanced. It deserved the righteous indignation and condemnation of all good men because in the Philippines, the media is supposed to be the last bastion of truth because we can no longer expect the truth from perceived dishonest government,” he said.

Joe Torres, president of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) who spoke to the participant through a phone patch, also condemned the incident.

He said, “Ang mga pulis ay walang karapatang gumawa ng ganoong hakbang sa media. (The police have no right to do such thing against the media.) Let’s unite together and oppose all forms of press freedom violations.”

In a workshop in the afternoon reporters assessed their problems as well as identified possible solutions.

Aside than poverty they also admitted that they have become vulnerable to attacks from government authorities citing the recent experience of market-based radio reporter Michael Paras of dxLS Love Radio who was kicked by Barangay Captain Pablito Paran during the mass oath taking of elected barangay officials Monday at the city hall’s amphitheatre.

Paras, who also joined the forum, criticized Paran for the ‘tari-tari (illegal cockfight) and video karera business in his barangay.

The reporters signed a Press for Peace Statement that “reasserts Article III Section 4 of the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and upholds the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

They adopted the Asia Media Forum Charter of 2006 to “empower journalists to resist censorship in all forms and to promote solidarity among local, national and international media organizations for better understanding and cooperation.”

They committed themselves to fair, accurate and responsible reportage. They also condemned summary executions or extrajudicial killing and all forms of harassments done against media practitioners.

They urge the management of all print and broadcast institutions to conduct seminars and training to empower and capacitate media workers.

They said they want to organize themselves “into a cooperative of media in Iligan for their economic enhancement.”

Biema Ladlad, a radio reporter from Marawi, said she wanted continuing media education to empower reporters and equip them with right information.

“Its good to realize that it’s possible for reporters to talk on issues over cooked bananas and camote as served food,” she added.

The media forum was initiated by CSOFP in partnership with VSO Peace Mindanao.