CLTV president “red-tagged” in school forum

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – The president and general manager of a regional TV station was accused of being a communist in a school forum in Bacolor, Pampanga on 17 September 2019.

Bacolor is 57.83 kilometers north of Manila.

Sonia P. Soto of San Fernando-based Central Luzon TV (CLTV) 36 was identified as one of 31 media personalities in the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency’s (NICA) list of alleged members of Communist-Terrorist Groups (CTG). Rolando Asuncion, regional director of NICA, made the accusation in front of students, faculty and school administrators during a forum-seminar on anti-communist insurgency held at the Don Honorio Ventura State University. Asuncion did not identify the other 30 journalists.

Soto is the host of So to Speak, a public affairs program discussing government issues airing every Saturday at 6 p.m. So to Speak’s discussions include assessments of government policies and programs, businesses in Central Luzon and other day-to-day issues.  An accredited broadcaster of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP, or the Association of Broadcasters in the Philippines), Soto has been recognized by the KBP, the local government and the private sector for her journalistic work. She has headed CLTV36 for 12 years.

In a statement, Soto said Asuncion’s intel is wrong and that he has slandered her name before the academic community by branding her as a member of the CTG. Soto said she can only assume that her name surfaced because of the proposal to repeal the Soto-Enrile accord, an agreement prohibiting unauthorized police and military presence in any campus of the University of the Philippines. Soto signed the accord in 1982 as a student leader in behalf of the League of Filipino Students (LFS).

Soto said she has requested the Commission on Human Rights to monitor NICA’s activities that may hamper her work as a journalist.

In a separate statement, CLTV36 demanded that Asuncion explain himself and retract his accusation. CLTV36 called the accusation baseless and irresponsible and expressed full support for Soto.

The accusation against Soto comes weeks after the red-baiting of Leonardo Vicente “Cong” Corrales, associate editor of Mindanao Gold Star Daily and Froilan Gallardo, photojournalist for MindaNews, in anti-communist propaganda materials.

Communism used to be a crime until President Fidel V. Ramos had the Anti-Subversion Law repealed in 1992. In the current administration’s “whole-of-nation” approach against communist insurgency, legal  activist organizations have been accused of being communist fronts by government officials, or in propaganda materials that are either surreptitiously circulated or publicly displayed by unknown individuals. This year, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and some of its members have been repeatedly red-baited. NUJP had also been branded an “enemy of the state” by the military in a 2006 presentation that is still being used today.