Makabayan solons call on PH courts: ‘Exhaust all means to drop charges vs. Tacloban 5’


In time for the third anniversary of the pre-dawn raids in Tacloban City that led to the arrest of community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and four other human rights defenders, collectively known as the “Tacloban 5,” legislators belonging to the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives filed a resolution calling on Philippine courts to speed up the resolution of cases filed against Cumpio and four others.

In House Resolution (HR) No. 752, Representatives France Castro of ACT Teachers Party, Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party, and Raoul Manuel of Kabataan Party-list called on the House to urge the “Philippine Justice System, including all courts and quasi-judicial agencies, [to] speedily exhaust all means to drop the charges against the ‘Tacloban 5,’ including community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, and stop the weaponization of the law to stifle press freedom.”

House Resolution No. 752 by Altermidya on Scribd

HR 752 noted that while press freedom is a constitutionally guaranteed right, the 2022 Global Impunity Index released by the international body Committee to Protect Journalists, the Philippines ranked as the seventh worst country in the world to practice journalism.

“Various laws have been weaponized in an apparent attempt to keep Cumpio and her co-accused in prison. In 2022, the Anti-Money Laundering Council even charged Cumpio and lay worker Mariel Domequil with a non-bailable case of terrorist financing under R.A. 10168. This is in connection with the money supposedly found during their arrest in February 2020. These cases sit atop the illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges that are proceeding at a slow pace due in no small part to the delaying tactics of the prosecution, which no doubt wants to keep Cumpio and Domequil in jail,” HR 752 noted.

‘Textbook example of stifling press freedom’

Authors of HR 752 noted that the Tacloban 5’s arrest can be considered a “textbook example of how illegal arrests directly trample the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press.”

“As a community journalist and radio anchor, Frenchie critically analyzed the stories of the struggling people of Eastern Visayas as executive director of Eastern Vista. However, the three years she has spent in jail have taken its toll on the reportage and functioning of the said regional community media group. In fact, Eastern Vista’s operations have long been paralyzed due to the Tacloban 5’s arrest,” HR 752 stressed.

The legislators also note that their prolonged detention “undoubtedly caused several other dire ramifications to Cumpio and the rest of the Tacloban 5.”

“Borrowing the words of the Supreme Court First Division’s Minute Resolution concerning Atty. Gigi Reyes, the former chief-of-staff of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Cumpio, and the rest of Tacloban 5’s long ordeal can be considered ‘vexatious, capricious, and oppressive.’ A cursory review of the Tacloban 5’s case would reveal that the prolonged trial and the filing of new unfounded charges against them constitute a violation of their right to a speedy trial,” the resolution noted.

HR 752 also called on the Supreme Court to “conduct a cursory review of all pending cases in Philippine courts, especially those perceived as politically motivated, which may be violating the right to speedy trial of the accused and submit to the House of Representatives a report on such, with the end-view of addressing this grave pockmark in our nation’s justice system.”

‘Defend press freedom’

Outside the House of Representatives, journalists from Altermidya Network and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, along with press freedom advocates, launched a picket protest to highlight the call to free the Tacloban 5, especially Cumpio.

“We will not stop until all Filipino journalists – especially community journalists – are free and unimpeded in their work of reporting the truth. We call on legislators to support HR 752, especially Speaker Martin Romualdez, who is the representative of the district where the pre-dawn raids happened,” said Avon Ang, Altermidya Network national coordinator.

“Speaker Romualdez, do not let injustice fester on your very door. We enjoin you to support the call: drop the charges against the Tacloban 5. Free Frenchie Mae Cumpio!” Ang stressed. ###

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