Journalists, progressive solons reiterate call for dropping of charges against ‘Tacloban 5’

Photo by Jose Santos / Bulatlat


MANILA – Journalists and progressive lawmakers have reiterated their demand for the dropping of charges against community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and four other human rights defenders based in Tacloban City.

“Three years of incarceration and the slow pace of the criminal proceedings undoubtedly caused several other dire ramifications to Cumpio and the rest of the Tacloban 5,” a resolution filed by progressive lawmakers under the Makabayan Coalition read.

Cumpio, and four other human rights defenders, were arrested while staying at their respective offices in Tacloban, Leyte in 2020. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives and were accused of being ranking officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in the region.

The community journalist and her co-accused, church worker Mariel Domequil, were also slapped with a terror financing case over the money seized during the arrest. The money was part of their fundraising for the collaborative humanitarian project, “Stand with Samar,” the women detainees said.

In a decision dated December 7, 2022, the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 18 also ruled in favor of the Petition for Civil Forfeiture filed against Cumpio and Domequil.

Both Cumpio and Domequil were not allowed to participate in the proceedings after failing to respond to the petition of civil forfeiture, however, the decision remains under appeal as Cumpio’s lawyers’ plea to allow her to present evidence in court.

In the resolution, the Makabayan bloc urged their fellow lawmakers to express the “sense of the House of Representatives that the Philippine Justice System, including all courts and quasi-judicial agencies, should speedily exhaust all means to drop the charges against the ‘Tacloban 5,’ and stop the weaponization of the law to stifle press freedom.”

Prolonged detention constitutes rights violations

House Resolution No. 752 also asked the Supreme Court to conduct a cursory review of all pending cases in the Philippine courts, especially those perceived as “politically motivated.”

This was following the Minute Resolution of Gigi Reyes, former chief-of-staff of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who was released from the Taguig City Jail on January 19. The high court granted her petition for a writ of habeas corpus after she questioned the length of her detention for plunder charges stemming from the pork barrel scam of 2014.

According to progressive lawmakers, the prolonged trial and filing of new charges of Cumpio and the four other activists, collectively known as Tacloban 5, constitutes a violation of their right for speedy trial.

“Borrowing the words of the Supreme Court First Division’s Minute Resolution, Cumpio, and the rest of Tacloban 5’s long ordeal can be considered “vexatious, capricious, and oppressive.”

An attack meant to silence journalists

In a joint statement, Altermidya – People’s Alternative Media Network, International Association of Women in Radio and Television – Philippines (IAWRT PH), and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also questioned Cumpio’s prolonged detention.

“The attacks are aimed at intimidating and silencing those critical in their reportage,” said the statement.

As a community journalist for Eastern Vista, Cumpio has written stories highlighting human rights violations in communities in Samar, particularly about President Duterte’s signed memorandum no. 32, ordering the deployment of more troops in the province.

On the evening of Feb. 7, journalists and artists gathered for a solidarity night in Quezon City.

“Frenchie Mae’s arrest and continued detention demonstrates the persistent attacks against independent journalists in the country,” they added. (JJE, RVO) (

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