“There is no singular, proven fact in that hogwash.“
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) called on independent journalists to stand against attempts to silence the press after a purported ouster plot against President Duterte was revealed by Manila Times president emeritus Dante Ang on Monday, April 22.
The union said such allegations against journalists is “dangerous as it lays the ground for more attacks against independent media.”
“What we do fear is that this ‘revelation’ could be a prelude to a crackdown against independent media and human rights lawyers,” they added.
In his article, Ang revealed what he described as an “association matrix.” A document which shows what he called a “coordinated media campaign to discredit the President.” Ang, however, did not name the source of the document but said that he is “highly placed in the Office of the President.”
“We call on the community of independent Filipino journalists and news outfits to close ranks and resist any attempt to silence the press,” the union said in a statement.
The association matrix which Ang said was provided to the Manila Times by the unnamed source links several journalists and lawyers from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) to “oust-Duterte” plot.
According to Ang, Bikoy, the anonymous uploader of the video series called Ang Totoong Narco list, was the “source of the black propaganda.” From Bikoy, the information then was given to Vera Files president, Ellen Tordesillas and forwarded to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Rappler and NUPL.
In her statement Tordesillas called it “downright false” and “hilarious.”
“But what I find disturbing is, if this is the kind of intelligence report that the President gets and bases his actions and policies on, the country is in big trouble,” she said.
PCIJ and Rappler also denied receiving such information from Tordesillas.
Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa on the other hand called “garbage and another Palace ploy to harass journalists.”
PCIJ also pointed out that Ang’s article is “wrong on so many points.”
For one, five journalists named in the matrix are not any more connected to the PCIJ. They also said that they have not released reports about the narcolist video of Bikoy. “The video is uploaded in YouTube and can be viewed by the public.”
The PCIJ reiterated that the “free, independent, and critical press is a hallmark of democracy.”
“A press beholden to the powers-that-be and shirks from its responsibility to fully inform the people on issues of grave public concern mocks its purpose for being,” they added.
Journalists turned into a lawyer
Meanwhile, in the matrix, an award winning journalist and a professor of journalism and editor was named as part of the NUPL.
“Undergrad to lawyer. Journalist to lawyer. Just on those glaring errors of fact, sablay na,” said Inday Espina Varona in her Facebook status pertaining to the matrix associating her to the NUPL.
“There is no singular, proven fact in that hogwash. It just lumps names on organizational charts, or bylines that have appeared on products and outputs of media organizations,” she added.
The matrix also named Bulatlat associate editor and University of the Philippines Professor Danilo Arao as part of the NUPL.
“This is yet another attempt not only to discredit the media but to also lay the ground for more attacks,” said Bulatlat managing editor Ronalyn Olea.
NUJP meanwhile, warned that Ang will be held fully accountable should journalists and lawyers he implicated in his report were harmed.
There are already 12 journalists and 38 lawyers killed killed under Duterte administration.
The Philippines also ranks fifth on Committee to Protect Journalists Impunity Index.
“Again, we reiterate, history has proven that attempts to silence the independent Philippine press may succeed for a while but, in the end, the truth will out and tyrants will always end up in the dustbin of history,” NUJP said.
Read also | NUPL: Ouster plot allegation ‘absurd’