By BEN BALCE
Staff member .
THE Army’s 4th Infantry Division yesterday cleared two Cagayan de Oro-based journalists from accusations that they have links with the New People’s Army (NPA).
During a dialogue with local media leaders at Camp Alagar, 4th ID representative Brig. Gen. Edgardo de Leon said journalists Pamela Orias and Leonardo Vicente “Cong” Corrales are not in the military list of suspected rebels or NPA supporters.
Corrales is this paper’s associate editor and a director of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club, and Orias, a newspaper reporter and chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in Cagayan de Oro. The journalists have been subjected to red tagging via social media, leaflets and tarpaulins, with messages that indicate a shame campaign, hanged in public places.
There were other city-based journalists red-tagged like Froilan Gallardo, Jigger Jerusalem and Joey Nacalaban. NUJP itself were also repeatedly red-tagged, and even the wife and son of Corrales were not spared.
Brig. Gen. de Leon, former chief of staff at Camp Evangelista and now 403rd Brigade commander, condemned the red tagging, saying it didn’t serve the Armed Forces any purpose.
He said this after a journalist traced a post on the Facebook group “Quiet No More PH” that red-tagged Orias and Davao-based columnist Margarita Valles to a military group engaged in counter-propaganda.
Valles is the journalist who was mistakenly arrested at the Laguindingan airport by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Region 9 late last month. The arresting officers are now facing charges of illegal arrest and detention.
De Leon said he was surprised to learn about the red tagging of the journalists. He theorized that it was the handiwork of a group that wanted to sow intrigues to damage military and media relations.
“Mga tanga at bobo itong mga nang re-red tag,” said de Leon. “The people behind this obviously want to drive a wedge between the military and members of the media.”
De Leon said the military would issue an official declaration that the red-tagged journalists have no ties whatsoever with the NPA.
For her part, Camp Alagar spokesperson Maj. Michelle Olaivar said she would take the issue up with the police regional director Brig. Gen. Rafael Santiago.
On her level, Olaivar assured she would issue a press advisory akin to what 4th ID would issue. She said the police, as an organization, does not engage in red tagging.
Along with Orias, NUJP safety officer for western Mindanao JB Deveza, Gold Star Daily editor-in-chief Herbie Gomez, Corrales, Gallardo, Rappler reporter Bobby Lagsa, and Cagayan de Oro Press Club president Ritchie Salloman attended the dialogue.
On Saturday, members of the NUJP directorate met with Mayor Oscar Moreno and asked him to help in protecting threatened journalists.
Moreno assured the NUJP officers that he would ask the police to catch those distributing or hanging materials with red tagging messages against journalists. He also asked them to provide him useful information about those behind the red tagging activities.