Journ Classroom

November 29, 2007

Trillanes, Lim aftermath: journalists arrested

Filed under: general,News — Luz Rimban @ 10:32 pm

Not since the darkest days of martial law some 25 years ago have so many media people been arrested in one single swoop and hauled off to prison, treated as though they were ordinary criminals.

The scene at the Manila Peninsula in Makati City after the surrender of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim–ellentordesillas.jpgpolice shoving reporters, photographers and network production staff into buses that would take them to police headquarters in Bicutan–showed the Arroyo government at its most repressive. In full view of television cameras, on primetime live, police and military officials showed neither recognition of nor respect for the ideal of a free press.

Members of the PNP’s Special Action Forces bound the hands of the production staff of ABS-CBN and tried clamping handcuffs on the rest, among them Ellen Tordesillas of Malaya and DJ Yap of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The Inquirer reports that some 50 members of the media were arrested. (The photo at left was taken by Ellen shortly after Lim and Trillanes walked out of the Makati courtroom during a hearing today. The photo appears in Ellen’s blog and is being used here with permission.)

While all this was happening, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro was in the ABS-CBN studios being interviewed by Anchor Ted Failon, the interview serving as annotation to the scene that was unfolding. Teodoro spoke in a calm voice, in contrast to the urgency with which Failon and his co-anchor Korina Sanchez were reporting on the journalists’ arrests. After first disclaiming any involvement in the Peninsula affair which was a police operation, Teodoro nevertheless spoke about the arrests as though rounding up journalists was the most natural thing in the world.

The arrests were made, he said, simply “to determine the identities” of the media people. “Certain Magdalo people will pose as so and so,” Teodoro said, referring to the band of rebel soldiers who are the co-accused and supporters of Trillanes and Lim. He talked about the Magdalo as having evil designs and that the police were merely doing their jobs by rounding up the press to sniff out the impostors.

If military and police suspect Magdalo soldiers of trying to pass themselves off as reporters, that’s because it is military SOP to try to blend with the media. They do it all the time. If journalists can be embedded among soldiers during military operations, so can soldiers embed themselves among journalists.

Indonesian journalist Akhmad Kusaeni, in his Masteral Project submitted to the Asian Center for Journalism, wrote: “Major Gamal Hayudini of the AFP Civil Relations Service in Mindanao said the soldiers were trained in ‘actual radio and television reporting and they will do coverage regularly like the other mainstream media.’ Hayudini told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the ’embedded troops’ program had nothing to do with spying on reporters, but was ‘simply intensifying the AFP’s campaign against terrorism.'”

Interior Secrertary Ronaldo Puno defended the arrests, telling editors and producers the journalists were in good hands. He seemed to smirk at the exact moment he said this during a live press conference. He also said there was nothing wrong with confiscating tape taken by TV news crews. This is all hogwash, and as Atty Marichu Lambino, UP Journalism Department teacher, said earlier today, never ever should the public accept this kind of reasoning and never must society allow journalists to be jailed. Journalists are the eyes and ears of the public and muzzling them is tantamout to binding, gagging and blindfolding the people to prevent them from knowing what is happening.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has denounced the police and the military for treating the media as enemies of the state. “While we concede the PNP’s right to conduct a thorough investigation of a crime – and we do not dispute that the takeover of the Peninsula was a crime – the police ought to follow legal procedures. Invitations to questioning should be differentiated from coercion; journalists have the option to accept the invitation and, certainly, should be accorded the basic right to counsel,” the NUJP said.

While this blog supports the NUJP’s statement and adds its voice to the condemnation of media treatment at the Peninsula earlier today, I disagree on the point of “invitations to questioning.” It sounds as though it is right and natural for journalists to be “invited for questioning” when they happen to be at the scene of a crime. It is not. Journalists cover events and issues, crimes included, as independent and disinterested observers. What they know and see is out in the open–in the articles they write and the reports they broadcast. They should not be summoned for questioning as though they were ordinary witnesses to a crime. The police and military should do their work by painstaking investigation, and not by asking the media what they don’t know.



  1. It is understandable that honest men should be dead or in prison in a Republic where the President is a criminal and a thief…I know that imprisonment will be harder for me than it has ever been for anyone, filled with cowardly threats and hideous cruelty. But I do not fear prison, as I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who took the lives of 70 of my comrades. Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.

    That is just as pertinent today as it was 54 years ago. The people stood alongside the author of the above, but where do we stand today?

    Comment by Louis — November 30, 2007 @ 12:59 am | Reply

  2. Louis, the man who said this was a revolutionary, not a journalist. In journalism, we say: No story is ever worth a person’s life. Journalists are no good dead or in prison. You need to live, to be out there in the field, to be able to tell the story. When journalists die or get killed while carrying out their profession, no one will build monuments in their honor, or award them posthumous medals of valor, or provide their families with cash assistance or scholarships. Journalists need the liberty to gather facts to be able to tell the story. Luz

    Comment by Luz Rimban — November 30, 2007 @ 1:32 am | Reply

  3. I am talking about the apathy shown by the public. Trillanes made a stand and he called on Filipinos to take a stand. Every Filipino knows how Arroyo has ruined this country. It’s time for us to stop watching Marimar, Eat Bulaga, and Wowowee and try to take genuine steps towards the truth.

    The job of a journalist is to help this out. Unfortunately, the media is dropping it at obvious threats by the government. Look at how much the story has been swept under the rug. I’d like to knowmore about what happened to the reporters. I liked the coverage the PCIJ Blog used to give on these kind of events, but even they have stopped doing it.

    A journalist should be protected to report the truth. When he is not, then the whole country suffers because the media is one of the pegs that holds up truth and freedom. They shine spotlight on the good and the bad. Journalists are soldiers with pens. Plenty of them have had their lives taken in bringingout the truth.

    So here’s a question, if no stories is worth giving your life over,is there any story really worth reporting? I have received death threats over some of my writings. I have chosen that the writing remain because I would raher the information gets out. If someone chooses to kill me because of the truth, then so be it.

    Maybe that’s the problem today in the Philippines, no one is willing to make a stand if it means they might get killed. Thank God that Jose Rizal didn’t feel the same way.

    Comment by Louis — November 30, 2007 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

  4. Louis, I don’t think people are apathetic. They care, they are concerned, they feel strongly about events such as those that happened yesterday in Makati. Filipinos from around the world kept their eyes and ears glued to what was happening at the Peninsula, concerned about the curfew, about the effects of Trillanes’ and Lim’s actions, and what will happen next.

    But perhaps Filipinos are looking for another way of showing their opposition and anger. Perhaps rallying in the streets behind two soldiers/personalities is no longer seen as Filipinos’ best option for bringing about change. We did that in 1986, and got a similar chance in 2001. There were no long term changes from those two EDSAs and the Philippines is in an even deeper rut than during the Marcos years. Maybe Filipinos are still searching for an option that might just work.

    As for journalists, facing death isn’t supposed to be part of the profession, unlike soldiers or revolutionaries who know they can die anytime. Not wanting to take risks doesn’t make a person less of a journalist. When the 3 pm deadline came yesterday, some reporters chose to leave, some stayed behind. It was their choice, and each of those choices was a perfectly understandable option.

    Journalists do take risks when they report stories no one wants to cover. But they do not want to invite death or death threats. Investigative reporters take a lot of risks when they uncover wrongdoing, and our way of showing how much a story is worth to us is not by giving up our lives, but spending time and effort on research and on making it a good story that will be read and understood by the public.

    I’m no longer with PCIJ. Yvonne Chua and I resigned in June 2006 because of policy differences with other PCIJ members.

    Comment by Luz Rimban — November 30, 2007 @ 1:20 pm | Reply

  5. I was unfamiliar that a change in the organization happened. I commend you and I guess that you and Yvonne were instruments for good because it appears as though the PCIJ is a shell of what it once was.

    You are right about the role of journalists and they should be protected instead rounded up like cattle into a bus and shipped off for processing, much like chickens and pigs are sent to the slaughter house. Put fear in the journalists and then they will think twice about not listening to the government.

    Here are some quotes from Thomas Jefferson on the Press. He was a revolutionary in the US.

    “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”

    “The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers… [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.”

    “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”

    A free press is the bastion of a free society. When reporters are arrested or taken in for questioning, the press is no longer free.

    Comment by Louis — November 30, 2007 @ 1:49 pm | Reply

  6. 100% support to Senator Antonio Trillanes…Siya lang ang pwedeng makapagpabago sa bulok na Gobyerno ng Pilipinas!

    Comment by Lilibeth J. Zabala — November 29, 2009 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

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