CMFR/Philippines – Officials from the regional office of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Cagayan de Oro City barred reporters last 10 September 2012 from covering a hearing on an administrative case against the city mayor. Cagayan de Oro City is a chartered city approximately 789 kilometers south of Manila.
Gold Star Daily and MindaNews correspondent Cong Corrales said that two police officers carrying high-powered firearms stopped reporters from entering the conference room in the DILG Region 10 building where a hearing on the administrative case against Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente Emano was being held. Corrales chairs the Cagayan de Oro City chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
The police officers allegedly told Corrales that the hearing was “exclusive” to the parties in the case. Corrales said he offered to send one reporter each from print, radio and TV to cover the proceedings, but that the policemen refused.
In a press conference after the hearing, DILG investigating officer Rannie Palisok claimed that the order to bar the media came from DILG Legal Service Director Jesus Duque IV. Palisok added that the conference room where the hearing was held could not accommodate reporters due to space limitations.
However, Corrales told CMFR that the same number of reporters expected to cover the hearing were able to fit in the same conference room during an emergency Cabinet meeting called by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the aftermath of the 2009 flash floods in the city.
Corrales said DILG Region 10 Assistant Regional Director Nilo Castañares also said the counsels from both parties had agreed to bar the media so the proceedings would proceed “smoothly”. But both counsels denied that they had agreed to bar reporters from covering the hearing.
CMFR tried to talk to Castañares, but his secretary said he was out of town. An information officer of DILG Region 10 told CMFR there was no order from the department to bar the media from covering the hearing. She insisted that it was the counsels who had requested that the hearing be exclusive to the parties concerned. The information officer added that the armed policemen were posted at the venue to maintain peace and order.