BAGUIO CITY– Members of the media lashed out at the Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Council (RLECC) for imposing a virtual gag on the media with the proposed implementation of the ‘tokhang’ style against left-leaning individuals as the same will be a direct infringement to press freedom.
In a press statement, the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC), the largest and oldest media organization in the north, urged the Cordillera Regional Peace and Order Council (CRPOC) to outrightly reject the implementation of the ‘tokhang’ style against perceived leftists, including members of the media, as the same will be hindrance in the performance of their duties and responsibilities as the same has evident constitutional issues.
The group lauded regional director Romel Daguimol of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the Cordillera for withdrawing his signature in the controversial RLECC resolution and for standing by the rights of the people to freedom of expression.
Earlier, the RLECC passed a resolution enjoining member of the law enforcement agencies, together with representatives of local government units, to conduct ‘tokhang’ to known left leaning personalities in the government, media and other entities.
The BCBC stated that the aforesaid resolution has sent a chilling effect to the people who believe in the freedom of expression and who have still faith in democracy.
According to the media organization, even the timing of the same at the event of the 35th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution is ironic as the word ‘tokhang’ will never be forgotten by the families, friends, relatives and survivors of the government’s war on drugs that was boasted as the ultimate solution to the drug menace and the drug trade.
The Oplan ‘tokhang’ used in the government’s war on drugs involved the visitation and knocking on the doors of suspected drug personalities and plea for them to stop dealing and using drugs will now be used against known left-leaning personalities to dissuade them from supporting or being active members of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New Peoples Army – National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) or any of its so-called known front organizations and return to the folds of the law.
The BCBC argued that the use of ‘tokhang’ sets up a dangerous precedent because it follows the same controversial procedures on the war against drugs which was a failure in stopping the drug trade and instead caused the death of thousands of individuals and that years passed since ‘tokhang’ was unleashed and yet now on drug addicts, drug addiction, drug market still occupy the headlines.
Further, it is unfortunate that the RLECC expects ‘tokhang’ will be the answer to why there are many poor people who are struggling against oppression and discrimination and other historical injustices.
The BCBC also questioned the RLECC on whose discretion will be the definition of left-leaning or leftists be derived? Who are the people that will fall under their category or branding of left-leaning or leftist?
The group pointed out that members of the media are not spared of the controversial ‘tokhang’ approach as indicated in the very title of the RLECC resolutions whenever the media interviews people who are critical to someone else, especially those who are in government positions or those who have power and they will publish it, they will be perceived as siding with critics.
Moreover, whenever the media writes, broadcasts of publishes information so that the citizens will be challenged to think or make a realization of their leaders’ successes or failures and from that, an open exchange of ideas and opinions flourish, they will be branded as biased.
“Whenever the media conveys the people’s concerns, demands, desires, and pleas to government bodies, they will be bombarded with legal actions and condemnation from the people who are supposed to be standing by the provisions of the Philippine Constitution on the rights of every Filipino,” the BCBC statement added.
The group claimed that if ever the questionable resolution will be approved and implemented by the law enforcers, local government units and different government and non-government institutions, will mean that the same will be going against the media who are covering the people who are branded according to their standards or definition as left-leaning or leftists and supporters of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
The statement emphasized that the media writes or bring out news from the mouth of the news sources whether leftists, rightists or centrists and writing about the statement of any should not be mistaken as support to the news sources as it is bringing out the information and the truth that people deserve to know and understand.
The BCBC reiterated that the freedom is a fundamental constitutional right as the media has the right to move freely without control of those in power and that the said role is a crucial indicator of democracy that allowed the media to earn the distinction of being the fourth pillar of democracy. By HENT