The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) demanded the release of journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and likened it to the raids in Negros using search warrants of progressive groups offices and arrests made on finding guns and explosives in these offices, which the groups raided said were planted.
“The arrest of Cumpio is reminiscent of that of Anne Krueger of the Negros-based alternative media outfit [Paghimutad], who was among the more than 50 persons arrested in simultaneous raids by the military and police on the offices of legal organizations long accused by the government of being “fronts” of the communist rebel movement,” said NUJP in its statement.
Cumpio is the executive director of independent media outfit Eastern Vista and the radio anchor of Lingganay han Kamatuoran. Cumpio is also a broadcaster of disaster response community radio Radyo Tacloban.
She was arrested in the office of Eastern Vista on the wee hours of February 7 in simultaneous raids where four human rights activists were also arrested. She is currently detained at the Palo PNP Municipal Police Station.
The raids were done using search warrants issued by Tacloban City’s Regional Trial Court Branch 44 executive judge Eligio Petilla on February 3, were for alleged violation of Republic Act No. 10591 or “An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition.”
NUJP said that the arrest is “clearly part of government’s crackdown against not only these supposed communist fronts but the critical media, mainstream and alternative, as well.”
Altermidya Peoples Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) condemned the arrest of their colleague Cumpio. Eastern Vista is a member of Altermidya.
“We condemn the Leyte police and the 8th IB elements for this latest attack on Eastern Vista, our fellow community journalist Cumpio, and against people’s groups in Leyte. We demand their immediate and safe release, and call on the public to denounce this latest attempt to silence and intimidate independent media and human rights defenders,” said the group in its statement.
The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) joined media groups in calling for the release of Cumpio, whom they identified as an active member of their chapter in the Philippines.
According to IAWRT, Cumpio is an active IAWRT member who has participated in their investigative training program, global secretariat launch and the Philippines’ chapter general assembly. In the assembly, Cumpio’s team reported on Radyo Tacloban, IAWRT’s own mobile disaster community radio project in the city/region.
“We believe these acts of surveillance and types of harassment on journalists have no place in a democratic state like the Philippines. It is also a country that has enshrined freedom of expression and press freedom in its Constitution. We call on the Philippine government to uphold these principles and rights and immediately release Cumpio. In tandem, the government must also address and resolve cases of harassment, violence and killings against journalists in their country,” said IAWRT in its statement.
UP Visayas Tacloban’s student publication UP Vista shared recounted the ‘illegal arrest’ of Cumpio and the other four activists in its statement:
“According to the detainees, 50-70 policemen on full tactical gears went to the office and ordered the occupants to come out of the building and kneel. The forces then proceeded to search the office without reading the search warrant first.
While the entire operation was going on, one the of the policemen were heard asking his colleagues, “Naplanta na?” [has it been planted?] Only when the search was halted that the warrant, signed by Regional Trial Court 8 Judge Petilla, was read to the detained. To their shock, IEDs, sub-machine guns, and other fire weapons were already on the custody of the police.”
Cumpio is the former editor-in-chief of UP Vista and also the former coordinator of College Editors Guild in the Philippines in Eastern Visayas.
Police reported finding four caliber .45 pistols, various types of ammunition, two fragmentation grenades, a KG9 rifle and subversive documents during raids on their ‘safe houses’ in Barangays 77 and 96 in Tacloban City.
Various human rights groups decried the ‘planting of evidence’ and flagged that this has been a pattern in almost all, if not all, arrests of activists and peace consultants in the last two years.