Student journalists in Southern Tagalog radio-hop for justice

CAMPUS journalists from Southern Tagalog today voiced out their calls for justice to slain Palawan radio broadcaster and environmental activist Dr. Gerry Ortega’s in various radio stations in Southern Tagalog.

“Doc Gerry was a staunch critic of corrupt officials and a fearless advocate of anti-mining in the province of Palawan. It is but our duty as alternative journalists to continue his rightful cause, to fight the tyranny of corporations behind the destruction of our natural resources,” Michael Alegre, secretary general of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines – Southern Tagalog chapter said.

Alegre also lauded the efforts of the Commission of Audit to order the return of P3.9 billion of funds of the Malampaya Funded Projects, but reminded environmental and people’s groups to remain vigilant in ensuring that individuals who have vested interests will not take opportunity  of these victories of militant protests.

Alegre together with the student publications in the region namely The Searcher of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Santo Tomas, Batangas; UPLB Perspective of the University of the Philippines Los Baños; and Heraldo Filipino of De La Salle University Dasmariñas, radio-hopped in their respective provinces and campus radio stations.

They conducted simultaneous broadcasts to narrate what happened two years ago at Puerto Princesa to remind the listeners that the atmosphere of political persecution, culture of impunity and injustice continues under the Noynoy Aquino government. Other student publications such as The Lizette of The Laguna College of Business and Arts in Calamba, Laguna, also joined the commemoration through an improvised campus radio by setting up stereos and playing a recording in front of their publication office announcing similar calls for student passersby.

Meanwhile, student journalists from The Pioneer, official student publication of Palawan State University (PSU) together with CEGP Palawan chapter held a brief candle lighting ceremony to commemorate and condemn Dr. Ortega’s brutal murder.

“We are well aware that until now, Doc Gerry’s daughter Mika, relatives and friends continue to seek for his justice, but since big names such as Palawan ex-Governor Joel Reyes and ex-Mayor Mario Reyes are involved, what can we expect but a response from our justice system that is slow, dismal and may eventually fail to punish them for their crimes?” Allan Jay Javier, Chairperson of CEGP Palawan stressed.

The student journalists also read on-air a personal statement given by Mika Ortega, who is now an active advocate of anti-mining in Palawan even after his father’s death.

“Today is the 2nd year death anniversary of my father… Two years and the Reyes brothers are still at large. Two years later and we are still running after the masterminds behind the murder of my father,” Mika said in the statement.

Alegre added that because of the government’s lack of being a model in protecting the rights of professional journalists such as Dr. Ortega, even campus journalists in the region continue to be repressed with various press freedom violations. These include the libel case among student journalists of The Harrow of Romblon State University, the red-baiting of youth groups such as CEGP and Kabataan Partylist last November 2012 through a forum conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in PSU; andthe continued closure of The Epitome of PUP Lopez in Quezon province due to intense campus militarization in 2008. Just the other day, pictures circulated in social media showed military men in full-battle gear in PUP Lopez discouraging students to be active in the similaryouth groups.

“The human rights situation in Southern Tagalog is no different to what has happened to Doc Gerry,” added Alegre, citing human rights group Karapatan Southern Tagalog’s report that under Aquino’s rule, the group has recorded 20 cases of extrajudicial killings, 3 enforced disappearances, 43 illegal arrests and 33 illegal detentions since December 2012 whichis primarily caused by Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.

“We also see the connection of Aquino’s Bayanihan to the Cybercrime Prevention Law which targets the freedom of journalists and activists to express dissent in the cyber world. Instead of concentrating in ensuring that justice has been given to victims of political killingssuch as Dr. Ortega, the government even perpetuates further disrespect to freedom of expression through this law which is essentially a form of state repression,” he ended.

CEGP Southern Tagalog is currently leading the youth, students and netizens in a regional campaign to Junk the Cybercrime Prevention Law. Alegre noted that the government should expect the intensification of protests in time for the February 6 lifting of the Supreme Court’s Temporary Restraining Order of the law.

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