CMFR/PHILIPPINES – A correspondent of the Manila-based Pilipino Star Ngayon (Filipino Star Today) in Olongapo City filed an administrative case against the city police chief last 23 April 2012.
Olongapo City is the capital of Zambales, a province approximately 79 kilometers west of Manila.
Reporter Mahatma Randy Datu accused Olongapo Police Director Senior Superintendent Christopher Tambungan of grave threats, coercion and oral defamation before the Office of the Ombudsman. Datu said six other residents of Olongapo City filed separate administrative complaints against the police chief last 23 April 2012.
The administrative case was filed 20 days after Tambungan allegedly harassed Datu who was covering a hostage-taking incident in Bajac, Olongapo City last 3 April 2012. (See related story here http://www.cmfr-phil.org/2012/04/13/reporter-decries-alleged-police-harassment/)
Datu and other reporters were allegedly called on Tambungan’s orders to cover the hostage-taking. While listening to the SWAT’s rescue plan, Tambungan allegedly questioned Datu’s presence and pushed him out of the compound. Datu claimed that fellow reporters and some residents saw the incident.
In his affidavit-complaint dated 16 April 2012, Datu said that aside from physical harassment, Tambungan also violated his rights as a member of the media by preventing him from covering the hostage-taking.
Datu filed a separate criminal case against Tambungan at the Olongapo City Prosecution Office.
In a phone interview with CMFR, Tambungan denied harassing the Pilipino Star Ngayon reporter and said he asked the journalists to leave the compound because they were upsetting the hostage-taker. He alleged that Datu and other reporters went beyond the area allotted by the local police for the press and started taking photos, alarming the hostage- taker.
Tambungan added that he only asked Julie Sionzon of GMA-7 to cover the event as the hostage- taker said he felt more at ease speaking with a woman reporter. “I was surprised that other reporters were there,” the police chief said in Filipino.
Tambungan said he wrote Pilipino Star Ngayon president, Miguel Belmonte, explaining his side but has not received any reply. According to Tambungan, Datu and another Pilipino Star Ngayon reporter, Alex Galang, have been writing “negative” articles about him. He alleged that the negative reports started when local police caught Datu and Galang promoting illegal cock-fighting in a barangay (village) in Olongapo City last 30 December 2011.
Datu refuted the allegation, saying that Tambungan has been harassing them since 2005 when he and other journalists wrote an article about Tambungan’s alleged “money” arrangements with night club owners.