NATIONAL MEDIA GROUPS have criticized the Armed Forces of the Philippines for red-tagging an online media outfit following the arrest of a University of the Philippines professor on charges of being part of the communist New People’s Army.
Physicist and UP professor Kim Gargar was arrested by government troops on October 1 following an encounter with communist rebels in Davao Oriental. The military claims Gargar had been part of a rebel band that attacked a government patrol. Gargar was allegedly captured with an assault rifle, ammunition, and explosives. Gargar has denied the charges.
But in trying to link Gargar to the communist rebels, the military took it a step further by also saying that Gargar was married to a journalist working for a “leftist” news organization.
TV5′s news web portal, Interaksyon.com, quoted the Army’s Eastern Mindanao Command public affairs office chief Capt. Alberto Caber as saying that Gargar admitted to joining the New People’s Army in 2012.
The same report quoted Caber as saying that the scientist’s wife is “a writer of the leftist Bulatlat.com online news website.”
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chairperson Rowena Paraan demanded an apology from Caber for “slandering” the news organization and putting its staff in danger.
“Even if the military’s claims about Gargar are true, we do not see how his wife’s work with Bulatlat.com, which has been operating for several years, is relevant at all to any statement Caber has to make,” Paraan said in a statement released by the NUJP on Monday.
“Caber’s pronouncements are disconcerting because they suggest that “Bulatlat.com’s perceived leanings somehow make Gargar’s wife—and the whole outfit—complicit in the insurgency,” Paraan pointed out.
“It is the likes of you, Capt. Caber, who are the real enemies of the state because your blinders and one-track minds are anathema to the democracy you claim to protect and defend,” Paraan added.
Paraan said the red-tagging of Bulatlat by the military is reminiscent of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (ISAFP) 2005 PowerPoint presentation entitled: “Knowing the Enemy,” where the NUJP—and even the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines—were branded as “enemies of the state.”
Until now, Paraan says they continue to receive reports that “Knowing the Enemy” is “still shown in schools and other venues throughout the land.”
“Caber’s thinking has clearly not evolved beyond that of a brute who immediately brands anyone with a different perspective an enemy, the kind of thinking perpetuated during Martial Law that, alas, somehow continues to infect the minds of officers such as him,” the NUJP statement reads.
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) deputy director Luis V. Teodoro says Caber’s statement puts mediamen in danger, and adds to the worsening media situation “in which journalists are being harassed, threatened and even killed on a regular basis.”
“In the current environment in the Philippines in which journalists continue to be killed with impunity, any attempt to link a journalist to the New People’s Army—as the Armed Forces of the Philippines was implying when it mentioned that the wife of UP physics professor Kim Gargar, who is accused of being an NPA guerilla and is currently in military detention, writes for the “leftist Bulatlat.com online news website”—can invite harm to the journalist,” Teodoro said.
That Gargar’s wife writes for Bulatlat.com doesn’t prove that Gargar is with the NPA, and neither does his being accused of such an involvement prove that his wife, the journalist Ina Alleco-Silverio, is herself also involved in anything illegal. While the term “leftist” is in this country used to condemn diverse groups and individuals, it is not a crime under Philippine law either,” Teodoro points out.
“Why, may we ask, did Captain Caber feel the need to mention Gargar’s wife’s work with Bulatlat.com? In what context and for what purpose did Captain Caber accuse Bulatlat.com of being leftist?” Bulatlat’s managing editor Benjie Oliveros asked.
“(Is) the Armed Forces of the Philippines accusing Bulatlat.com of being leftist because of our reportage of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, which earned us numerous awards and citations from agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross,” Oliveros asked.
He says that Caber’s insinuation is evocative of martial rule where “anyone critical of the Marcos dictatorship was branded as a communist, leftist and subversive, and therefore was subjected to arrest, detention, torture, and worse, enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killing.”
“Organizations and news agencies accused of being leftist and subversive then were declared illegal, its offices padlocked, such was the case of the former We Forum of press freedom icon Joe Burgos,” recalls Oliveros.