Media groups demand probe, relief of Davao City police chief

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 Feb) –  Media groups issued separate statements on Thursday calling for an investigation and filing of charges against policemen who allegedly mauled Inquirer correspondent Karlos Manlupig during a news coverage on Wednesday.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) national council was more specific: it urged Local Governments Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima to “immediately relieve” Davao City police chief , Senior Superintendent Ronald de la Rosa,  “for command responsibility” and “have
him and his abusive men investigated and file criminal and administrative charges against them.”

The Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines (PCP) called on the PNP to “immediately take action against the erring policemen.”

“We demand sanctions and disciplinary measures, including dismissal from the service if it is warranted, after a thorough and transparent investigation. We make it clear to the PNP that attacks and violence against photojournalists is not tolerated. We note that previous incidents of alleged violence against journalists in this country have not resulted in any action,” the PCP statement read.

Dela Rosa said what happened to Manlupig was “unintentional.”

“If indeed he (Manlupig) was hurt during the riot, it was unintentional. He was in the middle of a fracas between the rioters and riot cops.”

Dela Rosa said they are open for investigation. Asked for comment on the NUJP’s demand for his relief, dela Rosa said:  “After my patience in avoiding what could have been a violent and bloody dispersal, that is what I get?”

Manlupig claimed to have been attacked by policemen during a riot Wednesday at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office.

Manlupig said he was pushed by policemen with their shields and truncheons when he went inside the DSWD compound to interview the protesters who were arrested after the riot.

He also said he was hit by a policeman with a stick on Tuesday while he was taking photos of protesters  breaking down the DSWD gates and taking the relief goods inside the compound.

The NUJP statement quoted Manlupig  as saying he said he tried to explain that he needed to get interviews, “pero may nag-command na palabasin na ako. Bigla na lang ako pinagtutulak gamit ang shields and sticks nila. Nag-attempt ako magpaliwanag patuloy nila ako tinulak hanggang sa maipit ako sa gate. Na-sandwich ang mukha ko sa shield at gate hanggang sa nakalabas ako (but someone gave the command to evict me. They suddenly started pushing me with their shields and sticks. I tried to explain but they kept pushing me until I was pinned at the gate. My face was sandwiched between a shield and a gate until I was pushed out).”

“Although Manlupig said he suffered only a slight gash on the left arm, he felt insulted and humiliated,” the statement read.

In a separate statement, NUJP-Davao City chapter said Manlupig “was shoved by the police with their clubs and shields, his face hitting the gates in the process.”

“To add insult to injury,” the statement added, dela Rosa “scolded Manlupig in public, saying, ‘You’re in a middle of a commotion, so don’t expect special treatment!,’” the statement read.

A riot broke out at around 10:30 am Wednesday, when protesters tried to block the food for the police. It was followed by another commotion when they disarmed a policeman in plainclothes who entered the protesters’ camp, bringing a  9mm pistol.

Dela Rosa admitted that the disarmed man was a part of police intelligence, who worked under his command.

“We have given more than enough maximum tolerance,” he said in Cebuano, adding that he did not want the situation to reach a dispersal because there were children, women and elderly.

Mayor Sara Duterte on Wednesday gave Dela Rosa blanket authority to “do whatever needs to be done to end it ASAP (as soon as possible).”

She said in a text message, “If rallyists resort to violence (I) told him to use force to quell the violence and arrest as many as they can.”

The NUJP Davao in its statement also noted that as the protesters were leaving Thursday morning, reporter Irene Dagudog of the online news, Davao Today,   “also got to face dela Rosa’s brashness.”

The statement added that dela Rosa “confronted her and asked, ‘Are you neutral? If you blush, you are not,’” when she tried to interview him.

“Such arrogance and disrespect by dela Rosa towards members of the press is condemnable,” it said.

The NUJP national council said “when law enforcers are themselves the first to abuse and disregard human rights, is it any wonder why impunity continues to mark the continued murders and attacks on journalists and the other countless abuses committed against the citizens of this country?” (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)