The NUJP condemns the manhandling and arrest of Cagayan television reporter Enrico Puno of Clearview Cable Television and his driver Kenneth Tudao by personnel of the Tuguegararo City police force, led by their chief of police, Superintendent Felix Dayag, on August 28.
According to reports from the Alyansan ng mga Alternatibong Mamamahayag ng Cagayan (ALAM), the only apparent fault of the two, who were covering a visit by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was to drive their motorcycle into the road fronting the Cagayan State College, which authorities had closed.
ALAM, quoting Puno, said the two were about to stop when flagged down at a checkpoint commanded by Dayag when a policeman grabbed Tudao by the neck.
The policeman refused to let go of Tudao’s neck even when Puno presented their identification and the accreditation issued by the Philippine Information Agency for the presidential coverage. This triggered a heated argument during which Dayag ordered the two arrested and hauled off to the precinct.
While the two were being loaded into a patrol car, Puno said he was punched in the back. The two were released after the police filed a report.
ALAM also reports that Dayag has denied Puno’s account, claiming the two Clearview personnel ignored a “Do Not Enter” sign as well as attempts to flag them down, including by the chief of police himself.
Dayag said it was only when one of his men stepped into the path of the motorcycle that Tudao and Puno stopped. The police chief also claimed that he personally cleared the two to enter the campus on condition that they leave their motorcycle outside but that they refused and that Puno started arguing.
He said that he decided to have them brought to the precinct when a crowd began forming, with some also demanding entry into the campus.
Granting Dayag’s version is true, it is apparent that Puno and Tudao ignored the “Do Not Enter” sign not because of any inherent desire to spite authority but because they believed that, since they were going about their legitimate work as journalists, the entry ban did not apply to them, which is invariably the case in presidential visits to other places in the country. In fact, it is almost certain that other journalists had already been allowed into the campus for the coverage before the two were stopped.
It would also be logical to assume that Dayag and his men knew that Puno and Tudao are part of Tuguegarao’s journalism community and would, therefore, have known why they were at the Cagayan State College. And even if they did not, which would then cast doubt on their efficacy, surely the presentation of identification and accreditation should have enlightened them sufficiently.
We therefore see no reason why the two had to be subjected to manhandling, Tudao grabbed by the neck and Puno punched in the back as they were being hauled off. In fact, we see no reason at all why the two had to be arrested, thus preventing them from the legitimate practice of their profession.
The profession is awash with stories of how local journalists often run into difficulties because of overzealous security measures by the Presidential Security Group or because of the mishandling of the accreditation process and other bureaucratic fumbles. While equally condemnable, many such cases can also be attributed to incompetence and the unfamiliarity of personnel from national offices with the local situation.
But for local media to be subjected to such treatment by local law enforcement agencies that should be expected to be intimately familiar with the local situation and personalities is beyond comprehension.
We support the moves of ALAM and Puno to seek an investigation into the actuations of the Tuguegarao police, especially Superintendent Dayag, and file a complaint before the Commission on Human Rights.
Nestor P. Burgos, Jr.
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