“These recent attacks on campus journalists show that the Aquino administration is insincere in ending the culture of impunity.” – College Editors Guild of the Philippines
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) is crying foul against what it said was the Armed Forces of the Philippines’(AFP) recent campaign to harass its leaders.
According to the CEGP, its national and regional officers were followed and harassed by members of the military after the Samar-wide CEGP convention from February 23 to 26 at the University of Eastern Philippines.
CEGP National Deputy Secretary General Pauline Gidget Estella, CEGP-Samar Island Chapter Chairperson Angelo Karl Doceo, CEGP-Samar Island Chapter Secretary-General and editor of “The Pillar,” the official student publication of University of Eastern Philippines, Micah Susana Rubenecia, and Darrel Tibre, staff writer of The Pillar were the targets of the surveillance and harassment tactics.
In a statement, the CEGP said the places where the student journalists stayed in were consistently under surveillance. The Samar-based chapter of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) helped secure the safety of students while members of the alternative media and student publications maximized social networking sites and texted updates regarding their situation.
Terrorizing the campus press
Estella in a statement said the military was “terrorizing the campus press.” Estella and her companions were trailed by suspected military elements since they arrived in Catarman to attend the CEGP convention. Around 8 p.m. on the last day of the convention, suspected intelligence personnel approached them at the terminal. The man asked them where they were going and if they were from the University of Eastern Philippines or Brgy. Jose Abad Santos.
One of the speakers in the convention, who is a member of Kilusang Mayo Uno, lives in Brgy. Jose Abad Santos.
“The man told us that he was lost and asked us if he could come with us until we reached our destination. We told him to ask for directions from the local authorities and then we walked away from the terminal. The man then shouted at us and demanded to know where we were really headed.” Estella said.
Estella said she and her companions walked hurriedly toward the house of one of the staffers of “The Pillar,” who happened to live near the terminal. She noticed that a tricycle driver and his two passengers stared at them as they walked. Several pedicab drivers also followed them and somewhat aggressively asked them to get into their tricycle cabs.
“While we were inside the house, one of us went out to buy load for his cellphone. He said he saw a man on a scooter near the house. The said man was talking on the phone and that he stayed at the store along time,” she said.
One of Estella’s companions, Doceo, also received a phone call asking if he was still at the Farmer’s Hotel where the convention was held.
About an hour later that same day, another man parked a motorcycle beside the house Estella and her companions were in and stayed there for at least 20 minutes. Another group of men also came by, also on motorcycles. They parked near the house next door and spoke to the residents.
It was then that they heard one of the men looking for Micah, saying that they had some of her things, which she allegedly left behind. They also heard another man say that they had to look for the students and that they should “prepare.”
Estella and her companions opted to stay inside the house until 6 a.m.. They left the house in a private vehicle and went to the airport for their scheduled flight.
All throughout that tension-filled night the students stayed at the house, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the alternative media website Pinoy Weekly documented developments through texts and the social networking sites. Human rights group Karapatan, the Philippine Collegian of UP-Diliman, the All-UP Academic Employees’ Union, media watchdog Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and other concerned organizations, also extended their help by sending SMS and posting their support through their respective Facebook and Twitter accounts.
In the meantime, the CEGP also said that it has reason to believe that the military has also put the associate editor of “The Warden,” the Pamantasang Lungsod ng Muntinlupa‘s student publication Ma. Luisa Purugganan under surveillance. She is also the publication organizer of CEGP- National Capital Region and a member of the Regional Executive Council of Anakbayan-National Capital Region, a comprehensive militant youth organization.
In a separate report the CEGP released, it was stated that between 12:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. also on February 26, two heavily built-men estimated to be aged between 35 to 40 years old were seen riding a motorcycle. They stopped on the street near Purugganan’s house and began asking neighbors where the girl lived, after which they left.
Later that same day between 2 and 3 p.m., the same men returned. Again they asked bystanders if they knew where Purugganan lived. The bystanders pointed them toward the student journalist’s house and even told them that the 11-year old boy playing near the house was her younger brother. When the bystanders asked the men who they were and what they needed from Purugganan, they said that they were friends of hers.
State fascism against journalists
The CEGP said the Aquino administration continues to fail in its responsibility to address reports on the involvement of military officials in media violence.
“The acts of harassment and surveillance on Estella and her companions only show that the military does not distinguish between civilians and members of the armed rebel movement. It shows that even student journalists have become targets of neutralization in the government’s counterinsurgency scheme. In fact, Doceo and Rubenecia have reported that they have seen an Order of Battle file in Samar,”the CEGP said.
The Order of Battle is a military document in which people who are targets for “neutralization” are listed. Doceo, Rubenecia and other members of “The Pillar” are allegedly included in the list.
“These recent attacks on campus journalists show that the Aquino administration is insincere in ending the culture of impunity. Clearly, his administration is only posturing as an administration that prioritizes human rights because it tolerates, invites and perpetrates harassment and killings of journalists and cause-oriented groups,” the CEGP said.
Karapatan reports that from June 2010 to October 2011, there have been 64 cases of extrajudicial killings and nine of enforced disappearances, In the meantime, since 1986, 182 journalists have been killed, with 123 dying in the line duty. So far, only 10 cases have resulted in a conviction. In the meantime, the most heinous crime committed against journalists, the Maguindanao Massacre remains unresolved. Fifty-eight people were killed, and 32 of them were members of the media.