Philippine Police Arrest Journalist Accused by Military of Communist Links

Basilio Sepe and Nonoy Espina
Manila and Bacolod, Philippines
2020-12-10
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Philippine Police Arrest Journalist Accused by Military of Communist Links Members of the rights group Karapatan raise slogans during a protest in Manila to mark Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, 2020.
[Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]

Philippine police on Thursday arrested a reporter working for an independent media outlet, which the military accused of being a front for communist insurgents, a journalists’ union said.

Police early in the day picked up Lady Ann Salem, an editor with the online publication Manila Today, from her home in Mandaluyong city, in Metropolitan Manila, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said.

Salem was one of seven people taken into custody when officers allegedly found weapons and explosives in their homes after serving them with search warrants, the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group confirmed in a statement.

“Journalist and Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem was among those arrested in a wave of arrests conducted by the Philippine National Police this morning. The police has yet to release details of the charges against the journalist,” the union said in a Facebook post.

Salem’s arrest came as the world marked Human Rights Day.

“We are further outraged that authorities chose to seize Icy, as she is known to kin and colleagues, on International Human Rights Day,” the NUJP said in a statement.

Salem is also a communications officer for the Philippine chapter of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television, a London-based organization.

The NUJP urged “the community of independent Filipino journalists to close ranks and demand a stop to the repression of the media.”

“Icy’s arrest is proof that this administration is bent on silencing the independent and critical Philippine media so it can manipulate the flow of information to the detriment of our people and of our democracy,” the NUJP said.

Red tagged

During a senate hearing last week, Manila Today was “red tagged” by the military’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

As part of red tagging, the Philippine military and police label groups or individuals as being supporters of communist rebels, or as insurgents themselves involved with alleged legal fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.

Police alleged that when they searched Salem’s house, they found four .45-caliber pistols, four grenades, laptops, hard drives, mobile phones and “assorted” identification documents. The police didn’t give more details.

Salem is the second red-tagged journalist to be arrested and jailed for alleged possession of firearms and explosives, a crime for which judges usually deny bail.

Frenchiemae Cumpio, 21, of Eastern Vista community papers in Leyte province, has behind bars on the same charge since February.

Colleagues said Cumpio, who denied the allegations, might have been arrested because of her reports that focused on alleged corruption and abuses by the military.

A third journalist, Anne Kreuger, with the Paghimutad publication on Negros Island, was arrested late last year for alleged firearms possession, but is out on bail.

‘Fascist regime’

Meanwhile, hundreds of activists protested in Manila on Thursday to denounce what they said were rights abuses in the country since Rodrigo Duterte became president in mid-2016.

Local rights group Karapatan called for the immediate release of Salem as well as other activists arrested by the police as part of “an epidemic of state terrorism and repression.”

“This fascist regime will stop at nothing to bare its fangs against activists, human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists, and critics as it ramps up its crackdown on dissent in the most brazen of ways,” Karapatan head Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan and others accused the government of cracking down on groups that had questioned alleged excesses by the government, particularly during Duterte’s war on drugs that has left thousands dead.

They also criticized the recent passage of an anti-terrorism bill, which, they said, was aimed at stifling legal dissent.

“These threats can neither silence nor intimidate us, and we will continue to fight on to resist and end Duterte’s reign of terror,” said Palabay, whose group has been documenting the drugs war.

Last month, National Police Chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan said counter-narcotics operations had led to the arrest of “357,069 suspects, 7,987 deaths and the surrender of 1,290,768” since mid-2016.

Spokespersons for Duterte were not immediately available on Thursday to comment on activists’ allegations.

The military, in a statement on the occasion of Human Rights Day, urged the public to resist “radicalization.”

“We stand up for human rights and continue to stand by its principles, even in the face of COVID-19 pandemic, in our performance of our mandate as protector of the people and the state,” the military said.

“To this, we urge everyone to join us in resisting radicalization and seeking a just end to all violence.”

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