A woman journalist was caught on video by a TV news team helping fugitive Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon escape when troops stormed the Peninsula Manila hotel in Makati last year, according to a police source.
The source said the journalist is neither Ces Oreña-Drilon of ABS-CBN nor Ellen Tordesillas of Malaya newspaper.
Drilon and Tordesillas, who felt alluded to, had publicly denied helping Faeldon, who has a P1-million bounty on his head.
Drilon chided the government for saying that some journalists present during the Peninsula standoff last Nov. 29 had helped Faeldon escape.
“My conscience is clear,” she said. “The manner that the government is alluding to (some media members) without naming names means that every journalist is suspect. It is an attack on our credibility. They have not filed a single case.”
The source said investigators learned about the woman’s involvement in Faeldon’s escape after viewing video footage from the closed-circuit television at the Peninsula and those subpoenaed from different television networks.
The woman journalist has no regular beat and is seen only at press conferences concerning international issues, the source added.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr. did not identify the woman and instead advised journalists not to worry if they had nothing to do with Faeldon’s escape.
“Wala pong idapat ipag-alala si Ces Drilon at Ellen Tordesillas.”
Razon said he would identify the woman journalist “in due time.”
“I owe it to the members of the media to identify the concerned journalist who allegedly facilitated the escape of Faeldon from the Peninsula Manila hotel,” he said.
“We could not yet identify the journalist because it will give us an edge in our follow-up operations.”
Meanwhile, intelligence information leaked to The STAR showed that Makati Business Club executive director Guillermo Luz has been placed under military surveillance over his alleged involvement in a plot to oust President Arroyo.
“There is an ongoing case buildup against him (Luz),” a Camp Aguinaldo military insider disclosed. “May planong kasuhan din siya (There’s also a plan to charge him).”
The source said Luz is the subject of a “discreet investigation,” particularly over his alleged role in the Peninsula standoff.
It is being conducted “on a higher level,” focusing mainly on the financial aspect of the continuing plot to topple the government, the source added.
The source said Luz was seen in the company of key civilian personalities headed by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. and Infanta Bishop Julio Labayen inside the Peninsula when Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim briefly took over the hotel on Nov. 29.
“His presence in Peninsula Manila hotel is presently being looked into,” the source said.
Luz could not be reached for comment.
Eleven journalists from ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. asked the Supreme Court yesterday to declare as illegal their arrest following the breakup of the standoff at the Peninsula Manila hotel in Makati on Nov. 29 last year, and to stop police from re-arresting and charging them in court based on that previous arrest.
In their petition for a writ of amparo, the petitioners said the police violated their right to liberty and security, as well as the people’s right to free speech, free press, and right to information, when they were arrested without any warrant at the lobby of the Peninsula on Nov. 29.
The petitioners are Cecilia Drilon, Mayjay Cabalit, Melanie Masecampo, Ruperto Ambil II, Mark Cadampog, Emelito Hao, Norbert Calupitan, Alexis Acuin, Bernie Mallari, Randy Villan, and Noel Alamar.
They also asked the SC that any writ of amparo to be issued should also cover all the other journalists who were arrested at the Peninsula.
“This is not only a fight involving journalists like us, but this is also a fight of the people,” Drilon told reporters.
Named respondents in the petition are Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, PNP chief Razon, Metro Manila police commander Director Geary Barias, Chief Superintendent Asher Dolina, and several others.
They also asked the SC to restrain the respondents from effecting and making threats of future warrantless arrests and acts of harassment against them and other journalists in the course of the legal performance of their work.
“Their constitutional rights to liberty and security were violated when they were illegally arrested. But worse, there continue to be very real threats that such rights will again soon be disregarded and infringed upon,” read the petition.
“No less than some of the most powerful officials in the government have warned that petitioners, and other journalists, may once more be illegally arrested, harassed, and prosecuted for such past and future coverage of news breaking events.”
The petitioners said their arrests intended to “intimidate, scare, cow, and bully” them and other practicing journalists.
Their arrests were illegal as there was no ground for their warrantless arrests since “they were not committing, were not attempting to commit, nor had they just committed an offense in the presence of an arresting officer,” they added.
The petitioners said warrantless arrests require not only probable cause, but also good faith on the part of the arresting officers.
“Here, there was no probable cause,” read the petition.
“Worse, the arrests were tainted with bad faith and malice and were intended to harass, intimidate, cow and scare journalists in the legitimate performance of their duties.
“This is evident from the palpable arbitrariness and heavy-handedness attending the arrests.”
Arrest plotters — Pimentel
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. dared authorities yesterday to identify, arrest and prosecute the reported destabilizers and coup plotters to douse speculations of a “fabricated tale.”
“If the destabilization plot is real, they should pinpoint the personalities behind it and apprehend them,” he said.
Pimentel said he suspects that military generals themselves were the ones painting the picture of instability to continue to keep President Arroyo “hostage.”
“For if this is just a product of propaganda spin masters, you could imagine the damage it has inflicted on the country in the eyes of the international community, specially in terms of scaring away investors and tourists,” he said.
Pimentel said the Armed Forces brass could not present proof that their claims of a new power grab are anything but serious.
It was “patently irresponsible” for these defense and security officials to blabber about an alleged plot to overthrow the government without any factual basis, he added.
Pimentel said Malacañang and military and security authorities could not agree on what groups were involved in the alleged coup plot.
“Some of them pointed to the Magdalo group of rebel soldiers, while others said it was the Communist Party-New People’s Army,” he said.
Pimentel said the fact that Mrs. Arroyo was flying to Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates from Jan. 22 to 28 would imply that Malacañang does not believe that she was in danger of being ousted.
“Some generals are the ones trying to create an atmosphere of instability to keep the President hostage,” he said. “Simply stated, they want to keep the President under their control.”
Pimentel said claims about a new destabilization and coup plot against the government were belied by their own subsequent statements downplaying the threats.
“Under the circumstances, the loud and furious moves of the Armed Forces to demonstrate its power merely show that the President is no longer in control,” he said.
“It is she who is under the control of some generals. She is apparently being allowed to hang on to the office to give a civilian face to the insidious and sinister fact that the country is being run by a clique of generals without the mandate of the people.”
Pimentel said the military’s plan to deploy about 10,000 troops in Metro Manila was intended to intimidate citizens who would go to the streets to exercise of their right to peacefully assemble.
“This is one reason why the downgrade of our country’s commitment to democratic principles by a US think tank may have some basis,” he said.
“It is obvious that the President and her generals are playing the game of the generals at the expense of democracy and the fundamental rights of our people,” he said.
‘Faeldon recruiting for coup’
Maj. Gen. Fernando Mesa, Armed Forces National Capital Region Command chief, said that the officers contacted via telephone by Faeldon have informed their superiors about the recruitment.
“The officers recognized his voice,” he said.
Faeldon’s attempt to recruit fellow officers for destabilization started last week, he added.
Mesa refused to identify the officers who were contacted as well as their units in the Armed Forces.
Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the recruitment of soldiers for plans to grab power is continuing.
However, soldiers would not join a plot to overthrow the government because they remain committed to their duties, he added.
Esperon said security forces are prepared to meet any threat to the nation’s security and stability.
“During the Nov. 29 Peninsula Manila incident, nobody from the active service joined them, they did not even see civilian support so I could say they can only keep on dreaming,” he said.
Faeldon reportedly escaped at the height of the Peninsula siege.
A P1-million reward has been offered for his arrest.
The fugitive officer is facing charges before civilian and military courts for his alleged involvement in the short-lived July 27, 2003 Oakwood mutiny.
CECILLE SUERTE FELIPE
with Jaime Laude, Mike Frialde, Aurea Calica, James Mananghaya
The Philippine Star