MIGHT as well join the fray.
A couple of deplorable incidents happened one after the other in “I Am Iloilo City” last week. To say that it left a bad taste in the mouth is an understatement.
What made those incidents disgusting was the manner in which a supposedly routine and harmless implementation of the law was done in “overkill.”
Of course, those incidents ruffled feathers and more. The irony was that what led to the “overkill” in the first place was the fact that feathers were ruffled.
Excerpts from the June 11, 2019 issue of Panay News:
NUJP questions manner of arrest of 2 Iloilo journos
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Iloilo Chapter questioned the manner of arrest of two media personalities here.
Newspaper columnist and cable television host Peter Jimenea and 60-year-old blogger and radio block-time program host Manuel Mejorada were separately arrested on libel charges last week.
The two were treated like dangerous and armed criminals, lamented NUJP-Iloilo.
From La Paz district here, Jimenea was handcuffed and brought to San Jose, Antique where the complaint was filed.
Mejorada, on the other hand, was arrested at his house in Pavia, Iloilo handcuffed and brought to the municipal police station on June 7, a Friday, which meant he could only post bail the next day.
He would have spent a night in jail if he was not brought to a hospital after feeling ill due to elevated blood pressure.
NUJP-Iloilo clarified it does not agree with and subscribe to many acts of Mejorada in the exercise of the basic right to expression. “We defend and uphold freedom of expression and freedom of the press even as we also maintain that these rights should not be abused and should be exercised with utmost responsibility,” it stressed.
But according to NUJP-Iloilo, the guilt or innocence of Jimenea and Mejorada in the specific cases they were arrested for would still be determined by the appropriate courts.
“That is why we question why, in the implementation of arrest warrants, they were treated like dangerous armed criminals,” the group lamented.
It stressed that libel is a bailable offense and is unlike, murder, drug trafficking, robbery or rape.
“Considering their age, physical condition and stature in the community, it is ridiculous to consider that they are dangerous and pose flight risks,” NUJP-Iloilo added.
With emphasis I say this: just like the NUJP I do not agree nor subscribe to the numerous acts of Manuel Mejorada a.k.a. Boy Mejorada in his basic right to exercise his freedom of expression, but that is his right and I defend that right of freedom of expression.
In the same breathe, that right should not be abused and exercised with proper responsibility. As they say, we all have the right to make fools of ourselves or not.
What irks me, and probably almost all the journalists in “I Am Iloilo City”, was the manner in which the serving of the warrant of arrest on both media personalities.
We are not afraid of libel and we have accepted the fact that it is a consequence of the work we do, in the same manner we are also fully aware of our rights.
Firstly, libel is very much bailable and those accused of libel almost always are journalists – basically harmless, just loudmouths but not hardened criminals i.e. rapists, murderers or drug lords.
Let’s start with Peter Jimenea; the man is a senior citizen and a polio victim, meaning he is a person with disability or PWD. This fact alone shows he is not a flight risk and could not run away even if he wanted to.
Definitely he is not armed and dangerous so putting him in handcuffs was obviously “overkill.”
Boy Mejorada is also a senior citizen and is on the portly side, which means he is no Usain Bolt. Even if the desire to sprint away is there, reality says his body is not built for it.
He is also not armed and dangerous so again putting handcuffs on him is obviously “overkill.”
Was the manner of arrest and handcuffs meant to intimidate them or perhaps a subtle way to get rid of them. Considering their ages and condition it is assumed that they are suffering from hypertension and any stress i.e., handcuffs will drive their blood pressure up which could lead to a stroke or heart attack.
On hindsight it would have been more humane for the arresting authorities to just contact Peter Jimenea and Boy Mejorada and inform them that they have an impending warrant of arrest so they could just surrender and post their bail.
There would have been no drama, no tension when the authorities served the warrant of arrest, and bail would have been posted while Peter Jimenea and Boy Mejorada would have their day in court.
At the end of the day, Ilonggo journalists are not whiners like Maria Ressa. We take libel in stride and face it in court minus the melodrama./PN