The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned a military unit that tried to prevent Davao City-based journalists from covering the evacuation of about 2,000 Lumad evacuees in Lianga, Surigao del Sur Monday.
In a statement, the NUJP said it strongly condemns the 4th Civic Military Operation Battalion of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that stopped the vehicle carrying five journalists from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Radyo ni Juan Network, Kilab Multimedia, The Breakaway Media and Davao Today at about 11 am Monday at Kilometer 3, Sitio Neptune in Diatagon, Lianga.
A Major Jerson Igloria, battalion ground commander manning the checkpoint, told the reporters not to proceed to where the evacuees were gathered and was heard asking, “Sino yang nasa loob ng sasakyan? Mga illegal yan? ‘Di lumabas.”
Inquirer correspondent Barry Dacanay then alighted and tried to go near the approaching evacuees but was stopped by Igloria who told him, “Sir, doon ka lang. Respetohay lang ta.”
The Army officer then ordered the journalists to first secure a permit from the Lianga Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) Office before they would be allowed to cover the evacuation.
The journalists sought permission from the Lianga MSWD but were refused without explanation.
Asked later by local reporters about their refusal, Lianga MSWD officer Melita Encenzo denied forbidding the Davao journalists from proceeding to where the evacuees were.
The journalists nevertheless managed to take photos and videos as well as conduct interviews when the evacuees reached the national highway.
“We stress that, in the absence of clear and present danger, neither the Army, MSWD, or any government agency has the authority to prevent any Filipino citizen from enjoying the freedom to travel and, in this case, stop journalists from covering what is clearly an event of utmost public interest and concern,” NUJP said. (raymund b. villanueva for kodao productions)