Rappler correspondent barred from coverage

CMFR/PHILIPPINES — A Rappler reporter was initially barred from entering the premises of the Central Visayas police headquarters in Cebu City on May 14 to cover the release of one of the Lumad teachers arrested during a raid on their school  in February.

Cebu City is 1,000 kilometers south of Manila.

Rappler reporter Lorraine Ecarma was covering the release of Chad Booc, one of the seven teachers and activists arrested in a “resue operation” of  “bakwits” or internally displaced individuals, when she was stopped at the gate and prevented from entering the compound.

In a Rappler video, Ecarma said that other media outlets were allowed inside. When asked for an explanation, she was told that Rappler is a purveyor of “fake news.”

Ecarma was able to enter the compound two hours later after she spoke with Lieutenant Colonel Maria Aurora Rayos, the Central Visayas police public information chief. Rayos facilitated the reporter’s entry and clarified that the employees manning the gate were not cops. According to Rayos, what happened was a case of “miscommunication.”

Booc and six others were arrested after an inter-agency “rescue operation” last February 15 in a retreat house inside the University of San Carlos. They were charged with the kidnapping of Lumad children whom the police said were being trained to be communist rebels. A Davao del Norte prosecutor immediately dismissed the case and had ordered the release of the suspects as early as February, but the Cebu police said that they only received the copy of the resolution and the order in May.

While inside the headquarters, Ecarma said that some non-uniformed men told her that she was happy about the release and that she will see Booc in the mountains implying that they are rebels. The men also filmed the reporter stating it was a part of their “protocol.” They also reprimanded Ecarma when she attempted to take videos of Booc and the area where he was detained. In February 2018, the President barred Rappler and its reporter Pia Ranada from covering him and  Malacañang. Since then, CMFR has recorded five other incidents of Rappler reporters being prevented from covering  government activities.