28 August 2019

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines demands that authorities and security forces in Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao ensure the safety of our former director Leonardo Vicente “Cong” Corrales, associate editor of the Mindanao Gold Star Daily, and other journalists who find themselves in danger because of red tagging.

On Wednesday, August 28, we were informed that new anonymous red tagging material against several personalities in Cagayan de Oro, similar to the earlier flyers and banners, had been received, this time from a courier service, by Iglesia Filipina Independiente priest Fr. Rolando Abejo and a city hall employee who had also been red tagged earlier.

The materials separately targeted Cong and another NUJP stalwart, the respected veteran Froilan Gallardo of Mindanews.

This time, the red tagging of Cong, who, along with members of his family, has been targeted several times this year, went beyond the usual accusations of membership or links to the communist armed movement.

A crudely produced flyer from a “Black Mamba,” purportedly of the “MAT-NMR Press Club Chapter,” claims there is a P1 million bounty for the death of Cong. The flyer also made the totally false claim that Cong is facing a criminal rape with murder case involving a child.

The courier packet that contained the flyer targeting Cong identified the sender as Danilo Tirso Mantangan of Sitio Camansi, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental with mobile phone number 09091020123.

Asked what he could have done to earn so much hatred as to seek his death, Cong said the only reason he knows is a column he wrote on the treatment Higaonon evacuees from Sitio Camansi, Barangay Banglay in Lagonglong town, Misamis Oriental had received when they descended on Cagayan de Oro to seek help from the provincial government.

On the other hand, the materials received by Fr. Abejo targeted, aside from himself, human rights lawyer Beverly Musni and her daughter and colleague Czarina for vilification.

The flyer intended for Fr. Abejo also included a list of organizations and personalities supposedly linked to the rebels. Froilan was included in this list.

Froilan said he might have been targeted because he had interviewed the New People’s Army on a raid in which they seized a number of weapons from security guards of Minergy Power Corp.

But whatever they may have done, there is nothing that justifies such harassment and vilification and, in the case of Cong, an actual death threat.

We hold that the reason the red tagging, particularly of Cong, has worsened to actually turn potentially deadly is because of the apparent lack of interest of local government and security units to protect those so threatened and to go after and prosecute those responsible for this clearly dangerous vilification.

And it is almost a certainty that, unless contained, the threats to Cong, Froilan and other journalists who have been targeted by the cowards who hide behind these shadowy groups and names could escalate.

While we are grateful that, so far, no harm has befallen our colleagues who have been targeted by this cowardly campaign, we note that as much cannot be said for the officers and members of other organizations so targeted who have been unjustly jailed, attacked, even killed.

It is not as if our colleagues have not alerted and sought the help of local officials and the local security community.

We urge our colleagues in Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao to close ranks and join us demand from your local government and security officials the protection you are entitled to.

National Directorate