Impunity fueled by gov’t apathy and aversion to dissent
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines deplores the glaring impunity with which the state’s security forces increasingly violate people’s basic rights.
What happened at the US Embassy last Oct. 19—when a weaponized police van was used against protesters—was a clear case of violence done by the state against its own people.
And media members were not spared.
Wences Balinguit of Southern Tagalog Exposure was arrested by the police despite having identified himself as a journalist. And Jaja Necosia of Kilab Multimedia was punched by an officer while she was shooting a video of a policeman assaulting a passenger in a jeepney that was leaving the area. Photos show that the officer is the same PO3 Franklin Kho who ran over protesters with the police van.
Video footage also showed heavily armed SWAT personnel heckling reporters and trying to block cameramen covering the arrest of an injured protester.
Earlier in the day, in Antipolo City, reporter Olan Bola of radio station dzBB, while covering a hit-and-run incident, was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice when he tried to interview a security guard and an officer identified as a certain PO2 Puruganan.
Bola’s blood pressure shot up while he was being held at the Antipolo station and he had to be taken to Klinika Antipolo, where he was treated under police guard.
We have received other reports about attempts by state agents to prevent journalists from doing their work, even threatening the latter if they persist.
All this, of course, is happening within a bigger picture—the wanton violation of that most basic of rights, the right to life. And this in a “war” in which human rights and due process are seen as nuisances, and those supposed to serve and protect law-abiding citizens and to enforce the laws are assured of immunity from any liability that may arise from some “collateral damage” they may cause; where perception, even if based on misinformation or outright lie, is held as more important than the truth; and where truth-tellers are treated as enemies for belying the authorities’ preferred narrative.
To be sure, impunity has been with us for a long, long time, fueled by official apathy toward violations of people’s rights and government’s aversion to dissent.
It is clear from where this impunity springs. What leaders say or do not say, what they do or do not do resound among those who believe in them and will often be taken as gospel truth, if not as marching orders.
Thus, the silence of past presidents on the wanton violation of rights abetted that sense of impunity with which state agents and their cohorts violate basic human rights. And never have we ever had a leader like President Duterte who so openly dismisses human rights and repeatedly exhorts law enforcers that they are above the law and who has regularly and publicly wished death and mayhem on his perceived enemies.
We demand an immediate investigation and swift action on these assaults on the freedoms of the press and free expression. For as long as signals from the center of power insinuate that people’s rights and liberties are obstacles rather than ideals to be protected and expanded, there is little hope that such gross disregard of basic rights will end soon.
DABET PANELO, secretary general, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, [email protected]