When has wearing Stop-Killing-Journalists shirt become a security threat to the President?

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)- Iloilo chapter condemns the actuation of a member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) who prevented Cirilo Renduque, cameraman of GMA-7 in Iloilo City, from nearing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because he was wearing a shirt demanding justice for victims of the Ampatuan massacre.

In an insensitive, arrogant and high-handed manner, the PSG personnel prevented Renduque and reporter Fabian Paderes from nearing and getting video footages at the tarmac of the Iloilo Airport during the arrival of the President on Tuesday, January 12.

Despite repeatedly showing his identification card accredited by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and the Media Accreditation and Relations Office (MARO) of the Office of the Press Secretary, Renduque and Paderes were not allowed to enter the tarmac because the cameraman was wearing a black shirt emblazoned with “Stop Killing Journalists” and the names of 27 journalists who were among those butchered in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.

We find no logical reason for preventing the crew from nearing the tarmac and thereby preventing them from doing their job.

Wearing the shirt is an act of grieving for the victims and sympathizing with the victims’ families. It is also an expression of condemnation and to demand justice.

When has this become a security threat to the President? Is this offensive to the highest official of the land? Didn’t the President herself declare a national day of mourning after the massacre and has not her various spokesperson repeatedly condemned the hideous crime?

We hope that the actuation of the PSG member is a result of his overzealousness in doing his job and not a policy of the PSG and other government agencies.

But based on accounts of the television crew, what adds insult to injury is that the PSG personnel even joked that he would have let them through if Renduque was instead wearing a “Kapuso”shirt. He also even told Renduque that he could by a shirt at a shopping mall so he could change the black shirt.

It is ironic that a shirt condemning the world’s worst attack on journalists and demanding justice for the victims is used as an excuse to trample on the rights of journalists.

We urge colleagues to collectively condemn this incident and we call on the concerned agencies to ensure that this will not happen again.

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