ABS-CBN mulls charges vs police for arrest of journalists

MANILA, Philippines — Officers of broadcast network ABS-CBN on Friday condemned the arrest of members of the media in the aftermath of Thursday’s siege at the Manila Peninsula, and said the network was considering filing charges against the law enforcers involved.

“We in ABS-CBN News strongly condemn the illegal arrests of our reporters and our colleagues in the media and decry the atrocious treatment [they were] subjected to in the hands of the police,” Maria Ressa, the head of the network’s Current Affairs department, said in an official statement.

Ressa said the network’s reporters were at the hotel “purely to fulfill their duties as journalists.”

“We see no reason why our reporters have had to be handcuffed and detained along with [Senator Antonio] Trillanes’ group and remind the government that [its] actions are a grave and serious threat to press freedom and to the public’s right to the truth,” she said.

Charie Villa, head of news-gathering, said ABS-CBN was studying the possibility of filing charges against the police officers who rounded up its personnel.

“We’ll investigate them the way they investigated us. I heard from some of them that their IDs were pulled violently [and] they were told to lie face down. I think that was uncalled for because they had IDs,” she was quoted by the ABS-CBN website as saying.

Eleven ABS-CBN personnel were among the journalists hauled off to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City for what the police said was a “verification” of their identities.

Meanwhile, the National Press Club said it will ask the Presidential Commission on Human Rights on Monday to investigate possible violations of human rights by members of the Philippine National Police in arresting journalists who covered the siege.

NPC president Roy Mabasa said the NPC will file an official complaint on Monday on behalf of the reporters, columnists, and cameramen who were “handcuffed, tied, loaded into a bus, and taken to the headquarters of the National Capital Region Police Office in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig.

The video footage of journalists with tied hands shown on national television as they were hauled into a bus is “a shocking image that only sends fear down the spine of journalists, but is also very clearly a violation of basic human rights,” the NPC said in a statement.

“The police simply went overboard. There was no reason for the arrests to begin with. And there was absolutely no reason to handcuff or tie the hands of journalists with plastic. They were treated like they themselves were suspects in a crime,” the NPC said.

“Since when did answering a call of duty to report to the nation an event of national significance become a crime?” it asked.

JEROME ANING
Philippine Daily Inquirer

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