By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
THE Presidential Task Force on Media Safety (PTFOMS) has expressed concerns over the continuing red tagging of journalists here and elsewhere even as he assured the victims of aid in the event that they send out a “distress call.”
Communication Undersecretary Joel Egco, PTFOMS executive director, assured that the Task Force will “act with dispatch on each distress call, actual or even imagined.”
“We are just a phone call away,” he added.
Egco said the Task Force had always seen red tagging as a matter of concern that it has helped previous victims like reporters Kath Cortez of Davao and Pamela Jay Orias of Cagayan de Oro.
Both Cortez and Orias are officers of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, a group that has also been red tagged.
“We cater to thousands of media workers in the country and we have acted on each and every situation where our assistance was needed, be that in incidents of threats, harassment, harm or even actual killing,” Egco said.
Egco’s statement came in the wake of the red tagging of Cagayan de Oro-based journalists Froilan Gallardo and Leonardo Vicente “Cong” Corrales. Both have denied links to the NPA.
Also red-tagged were priests of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, activists, sectoral leaders, and human rights lawyers based in the region.
Statements of support for the two journalists continued to be made over the weekend.
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of the city’s 2nd District, said, “Journalists are merely doing their job to report both sides of the issues.” He said red tagging “serves no purpose except to destroy their reputations without proof and unnecessarily hinders their work.”
Erlinda Olivia Tiu, director of the Philippine Information Agency in Region 10, said the red tagging of Gallardo and Corrales “saddens me as I am fully aware that they are legitimate members of the media and are helping promote government programs and advocacies.”
Brig. Gen. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Army’s 403rd Brigade, said he personally knows Gallardo and Corrales.
“They are professional journalists,” de Leon said, “To me, Froi and Cong are not simply friends, but close personal friends whom I consider as brothers. I vouch for them that they are not reds and do not deserved to be ‘red tagged.’”
He added: “Whoever is doing this has the malicious intent to sow division and break our friendly relationship. I suspect that this is the handiwork of the reds,” in reference to the communist rebels.
Camp Alagar spokesman Lt. Col. Mardy Hortillosa said he supports those who are being red tagged, “especially those [who] morally have no involvement in any activity of the CTG, but condemns those who support in any way to the CTG. The office will again repeatedly deny any involvement to the said red tagging.”
The military and the police refer to the NPA as “CTG” or “communist terrorist group.”