Local anti-riot police detained and manhandled a group of journalists and media workers during the demolition of an allegedly illegal settlement in San Juan City last 11 January 2012. San Juan is a city within the Philippines’ National Capital Region (Metro Manila).
Lady Ann Salem and other members of the media group Tudla Productions reported that police officers from the Eastern Police District tried to stop them from taking video footage and photographs of the clash between the city demolition team and residents of a settlement in Corazon de Jesus village, San Juan City.
The demolition was ordered by the San Juan City government, which plans to build its new city hall on the contested land. But residents refused neither to leave nor to transfer to a resettlement site somewhere in Rizal province, arguing that the relocation sites were far from their places of work and their children’s schools.
Salem said one of Tudla’s member-trainees, Shane David, a fellow mass communication student at the University of the Philippines, was arrested and brought to a police precinct along with residents of Corazon de Jesus village. A tweet from Salem said the police released David only around 1:20 p.m. after journalists from Pinoy Weekly and Bulatlat negotiated with police.
Salem said after she identified herself as a journalist to a police officer by the surname Abella, he stopped her from taking footage, taunted her “Tudla? Media ba yon?” (Is that media?) and then tried to confiscate her camera. The police officer relented only when Salem threatened to file charges against him. She also managed to record the incident.
Another Tudla member, Chantal Eco, was about to take a photograph of the arrest of an injured resident when a police officer approached her. When she identified herself as a member of Tudla, the police just said “Media ba yon?” and another officer by the surname De Los Reyes grabbed her camera. When she insisted on her rights to cover the incident, the police tried to handcuff her while saying they needed to confirm her identify with “MBC” and “NPC”.
De los Reyes returned the camera after another policeman ordered him to do so.
Salem said Tudla is considering filing a complaint against the police.
Tudla Productions has been documenting the plight of the residents of Corazon de Jesus village since 2010. Last January 2011, during a failed attempt to demolish the same settlement, Salem and colleague Godson Escopete were also harassed by members of the anti-riot police. Escopete was arrested for taking footage in the area.
CMFR (http://www.cmfr-phil.org) is a SEAPA founding member based in Manila, the Philippines, working to promote ethical journalism and to protect press freedom.