“The arrests of Cumpio and, before her, Krueger, the red-tagging of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other press freedom groups and advocates, the continued attempts to shut down Rappler, ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, are all part of this government’s efforts to silence the free exchange of ideas and coopt media into mouthing only what it allows.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The national network of alternative media outfits labeled as “ridiculous” the claim of Army’s 8th Infantry Division that Eastern Vista Executive Director Frenchie Mae Castro Cumpio is a high-ranking officer of the Communist Part of the Philippines (CPP).
In a statement, the 8th ID identified Cumpio as secretary of Regional White Area Committee – Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee while the four other arrested activists as members of what they call as “communist terrorist group.”
“Cumpio is not a member much less a leader of a ‘communist terrorist group,’ but a legitimate community journalist reporting on human rights abuses in the Eastern Visayas, including military attacks against citizens,” Altermidya Network’s National Coordinator Rhea Padilla told Bulatlat.
Cumpio is also a regular anchor of Lingganay han Kamatuoran aired at Aksyon Radyo Tacloban.
Also arrested were Alexander Philip Abinguna, Karapatan National Council member for Easter Visayas; Mira Legion of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Eastern Visayas; Marissa Cabaljao, spokesperson of People Surge Network and her one-year old baby; and, Mariell Domanquill, staff of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Eastern Visayas.
They were arrested in simultaneous raids by joint operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in early morning today, Feb. 7.
The 8th ID alleged that the said offices are safe houses of the so-called “identified communist terrorist group” in Tacloban City.
Human rights alliance Karapatan said otherwise. According to the group’s incident report, elements of the police led by a certain Lt. Col. Pedere raided the office of Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas, Karapatan’s chapter in Region 8, between 1:00 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. today. Katungod shares office with Bayan and Sagupa, a peasant organization in Fatima Village, Bañezville, Brgy. 77, Tacloban City.
The police forced their way into the office where Abinguna, Legion, Cabaljao and her baby were sleeping. The three, along with the baby, were reportedly brought out of their rooms. Minutes later, at least two guns, one machine gun and materials for an improvised explosive device were planted in the rooms.
At the same time, police and military raided the staff house of the RMP-EV and Eastern Vista in Calanipawan, Tacloban City where Cumpio and Domanquill were arrested. Guns and ammunitions were also planted in their rooms, Karapatan said.
Karapatan said that in both cases, the warrants were only shown after the arrests.
Days before the incident, Katungod-SB received reports of possible raids of offices of people’s organizations.
Cumpio was also subjected to heavy surveillance since last year.
Colleagues of those arrested have also belied claims of the military.
Human rights lawyer Maria Sol Taule said Abinguna whom they fondly called as Chakoy is a youth activist from University of the Philippines-Tacloban “who chose to do full time human rights work after graduation.”
Peasant women’s group Amihan also said that they worked with Cabaljao as well as Cumpio on the relief efforts for typhoon Yolanda victims. Cabaljao is herself a victim after the typhoon wreaked havoc in Leyte on Nov. 8, 2013.
Silencing government critics
National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the arrest of Cumpio and four others. In a statement, the group said the arrest is reminiscent of the arrest of Negros-based journalist Anne Krueger, of alternative media outfit Paghimutad and 50 others in simultaneous raids in Bacolod City on Oct. 31, 2019.
They were also accused of being front organizations of the CPP.
“The arrests of Cumpio and, before her, Krueger, the red-tagging of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other press freedom groups and advocates, the continued attempts to shut down Rappler, ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, are all part of this government’s efforts to silence the free exchange of ideas and coopt media into mouthing only what it allows,” the group said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Padilla said “the attempt of the 8th ID to link Cumpio to the CPP sets a dangerous precedent for community journalists that state forces want to intimidate for bravely reporting on human rights issues including military abuses.”
In a separate statement, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines blamed Duterte’s counterinsurgency campaign. “Duterte and his police and military are so obsessed with ending the local communist armed conflict and are overzealous in tagging everyone as recruiters, symphatizers, and collaborators.”
CEGP called for the scrapping of memorandum order no. 32, which orders the deployment of more troops in Eastern Visayas, Negros and Bicol regions.
Karapatan called on the public to stand against attacks on human rights perpetrated under President Duterte’s administration.