The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and the Reporters Without Borders condemned what they called as an “abomination,” the military’s Order of Battle, the latest version of which included the NUJP and journalist Carlos Conde, a correspondent for the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, and GlobalPost.com.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is now rethinking its official position that the murder of journalists in this country is not part of official government policy.
“The NUJP reiterates that we have, so far, seen no indication that the murder of journalists in this country is part of official policy,” Jaime “Nonoy” Espina, the NUJP vice-chairman, said in a statement this week. But the discovery that the NUJP and its former secretary-general, Carlos Conde, “are considered ‘enemies of the state’ has made us think that we may have to reconsider our position.”
Espina was referring to the inclusion of Conde and the NUJP in the order of battle (OB) of the 10th Infantry Division (ID) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Conde’s name was listed in a document titled “JCICC ‘AGILA’ 3rd QTR 2007 OB VALIDATION RESULT” purportedly prepared by the intelligence staff of the armed forces’ 10th ID based in Southern Mindanao.
In this “order of battle,” more than a hundred individuals – mostly leaders and members of progressive and leftist groups like Bayan, Bayan Muna, among others – are listed and classified as “organized,”
“dominated,” or “targeted.” Conde was the only individual journalist on the list, which classifies him as “targeted.”
(From left) NUJP secretary-general Sonny Fernandez, vice-chairman Jaime Espina, and journalist Carlos Conde. (Photo by Ronalyn Olea)
Besides the NUJP, the defunct Media Mindanao News Service is also included.
“The army considers me an enemy of the state, as the document, which shows the alleged links of these individuals with the communist movement, seems to be saying,” Conde said.
He said that an “order of battle” in the Philippines is a veritable hit list, citing the murder of peasant leader Celso Pojas last year. Pojas, like Conde, was listed in the same AFP document.
Conde works as a freelance correspondent for US-based publications, namely The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and GlobalPost.com. He has also been contributing stories and reports
every now and then to other foreign and Philippine publications.
Conde deemed his advocacy for press freedom as the reason behind his inclusion in the military’s OB. As coordinator of the NUJP in Davao City and Southern Mindanao and eventually secretary general of the NUJP from 2004 to 2006, Conde was vocal in pressuring the Arroyo administration to stop the killings of journalists.
Not the first time
In a press conference May 21, Espina said this is not the first time that this has happened to members of the media.
Espina recalled that in 2005, a PowerPoint presentation titled “Knowing the Enemy” listed the NUJP and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism as alleged legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
The document, which was leaked to members of the media, was believed to be the handiwork of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp).
Espina said that, at that time, the AFP’s reaction was outright denial. In the end, however, Espina said the AFP admitted the existence of such document and was compelled to pull out the names of media organizations from the list.
Espina noted the faulty information written in recent and previous “orders of battle.” He said that Conde, for instance, has been in Manila since 2006 but the 10th ID put Conde in their list in 2007.
Espina also cited the case of Julius Mariveles, NUJP chairman in Negros Occidental. He said that Mariveles, who has been active in radio broadcasting for three years, had also been tagged as an enemy of the state.
Espina said Mariveles’s name was included in the list of so-called CPP-NPA (New People’s Army) personalities in the Visayas from the Central Command. In the document, Espina said, Mariveles was associated with Bayan. “He was an activist but he has been active in broadcast for three years.”
When they confronted the military, Espina and his colleagues were told: “You are lucky you talked to officials like us. Never, never argue with our men because they are just trained to kill.”
Espina said he himself saw his name in an OB. “If you know your name is in the list, it has a psychological effect on you, you also feel fear,” he said. “If the military does not kill you, others who are angry at communists may do it. It is really dangerous.”
“Is it true that there is no official policy to kill journalists? They why there seems to be a pattern in which media members are often considered enemies of the state,” Espina asked.
“The existence of such an abomination as this OB only bolsters the thesis of United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston that the plague of extrajudicial killings that has cost the lives of close to a
thousand activists and dissenters since 2001, when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power, can be blamed on a government counterinsurgency strategy that targets personalities from legal
leftist organizations openly tagged as rebel legal fronts,” said Espina.
International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders also expressed alarm over the incident, “Many political activists on such army lists have been murdered by military or paramilitary units in recent years. We urge the government not to ignore these abuses and to put a stop to the practice of blacklisting independent journalists, rights groups and activists.”
The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility likewise condemned the AFP’s OB. “Given its traditions of secrecy, the AFP has denied authorship of the document, and would naturally refuse to answer questions on whether a 2009 version of it exists. But such denials, as the escalation of extra judicial killings (EJKs) in the last four years has shown, are as sinister as they’re meaningless, since, in a number of cases, the denials have not prevented EJKs. Under these circumstances journalists’ and media groups have no other recourse but to assume the worst– i.e., that Mr. Conde’s life is in danger.”
The CMFR added: “The harassments, threats and other assaults on critical and independent journalists and media organizations already constitute a pattern of government intimidation that has eroded free expression and press freedom in the Philippines.”
The NUJP called on the AFP and the Department of Defense, specifically Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., to rectify this “mistake” by sacking everyone involved in producing the document. It likewise urged the 10th ID to issue a public apology to Conde, the NUJP and to all the other individuals it may have wronged and placed in danger because of their inclusion in the OB.
Sonny Fernandez, NUJP secretary-general, challenged the Commission on Human Rights, the congressional committees on Justice and Human Rights to look into the military’s OB.
Espina said the Congress should exercise its oversight powers and look into how the intelligence funds are used or abused.
“The military, for obvious reasons, should have money to spend for intelligence purposes because it is dealing with its enemies. But again, if this money is being spent to spy on civilians, people who are not in the hills, people who are not advocating for armed revolution, the Senate should look into this,” Espina added.(Bulatlat.com)