Journalists covering contested land issue threatened

CMFR/Philippines – Two staff members of an alternative media organization were threatened and harassed by a group of armed men on January 28, 2022, in Bulacan. Bulacan is located 26 kilometers north of Metro Manila. 

Manuel Garcellano, a videographer, and Reymark Umpacan were part of a fact-finding mission as members of UMANI Productions, an “alternative media organization committed to cover and report issues on agrarian reform and human rights of poor peasants.” The fact-finding mission was gathering data on the reported demolition of homes in Sitio Ricafort, Barangay Tungkong Mangga, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. 

Garcellano and Umpacan were interviewing residents when a group of armed men arrived and fired at the fact-finding team, according to a statement by Altermidya Network. Garcellano attempted to flee to safety, but two of the armed men pursued the videographer, struck him in the face, and took his camera and other equipment as well as personal items. Both were made to lie face down on the ground.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported in their January 29, 2022 alert that locals allege that the armed men – who concealed their identities with face coverings – were security guards of Araneta Properties Inc., the same firm that is reportedly seeking to develop the disputed land into subdivisions. The armed group left after thirty minutes. 

In a statement, UMANI Productions condemned the incident and urged the media to support its quest  “for justice and accountability, and defend press freedom, especially (by) covering marginalized and vulnerable sectors, such as the poor peasants in the country.”