Frenchie’s only weapon is the truth.
By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
MANILA– Frenchie Mae Cumpio, executive director of alternative media outfit Eastern Vista, has been in jail for more than a month. Authorities claimed she and four human rights defenders are ranking officers of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). She was charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Friends and colleagues, however, asserted that Frenchie’s only weapon is the truth.
Frenchie has been with Eastern Vista since the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda. From being the editor in chief of UP Vista, student publication of UP Tacloban, Frenchie first became an anchor of Lingganay han Kamautoran aired at DYVL Aksyon Radyo.
On radio and in online news site Eastern Vista, Frenchie reported on the struggles of disaster victims – from seeking aid and rehabilitation to opposing eviction and rights abuses.
Under the Duterte administration, Frenchie wrote stories about incidents of human rights violations in the communities of Samar, especially after President Duterte signed memorandum no. 32, ordering the deployment of more troops in the province.
Frenchie also exposed the terror caused by military encampment in 167 communities in the region under the guise of “community support program.”
Frenchie provided human face to the militarization of peasant communities, publishing articles about Bienvenida Cabe and Prescila Lebico, whose son and husband were among the 34 victims of extra-judicial killings in the region.
Eastern Vista also revealed how communities were being subjected to aerial bombings, and how residents were treated as pawns in the government’s counterinsurgency campaign.
The media outfit also tackled the plight of workers, the fight of Filipino farmers for their right to land, the students’ protests against tuition and other fees, among others.
Just last December, Frenchie wrote a feature story about activists who have been subjected to surveillance. A few days later, Frenchie herself has been tailed by suspected state agents.
“When they saw that there are media outfits that provide truthful information on the situation in Eastern Visayas, they try to control them through harassment,” Frenchie told Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility in a previous interview.
Frenchie persevered in telling the truth. “(But) in these turbulent times, to fight back against the looming dictatorship is just,” she wrote.
Drop the fabricated charges
Altermidya, the national network of alternative media outfits, called the charges against Frenchie and four other human rights defenders as ‘ridiculous.’
Altermidya launched an online petition calling for the immediate release of Cumpio. (You can sign the petition for Cumpio’s immediate release here: http://chng.it/gGg7m5YwpL )
“We maintain that the arrest and detention of Cumpio is an attempt to silence messengers of truth and a clear violation of press freedom,” said Altermidya.
“Cumpio’s arrest and continuing detention is yet another indication of the shrinking democratic space in the Philippines, as the Duterte administration hopes to deprive the poorest of the poor of another platform by which their voices are heard,” the group said.