Asks Task Force Usig for security
BAGUIO CITY (May 21) — Baguio City-based journalists Ma. Elena Catajan and Redgie Cawis of the national daily Malaya are fearing for their lives after the “snapping incident” at Alfonsolita town involving Vice-mayor Clarence Polig and several others two weeks ago.
Seriously asking Task Force Usig for security arrangements, Catajan said Police Director Jess Soriano had called her to confirm her and Cawis’ request last Saturday.
Catajan narrated to Soriano the harrowing experience where already drunk Polig and his cohorts “picked” on the duo who the latter claimed had not been “permitted” by him to go to Alfonso Lista town and that they were trespassing because they had no “work order”.
Even to the point that guns were reportedly drawn by the vice mayor and his armed cohorts, Catajan told Police Director Soriano of TF Usig that the town executive kept on cursing them in different languages.
Catajan also told Soriano of TF Usig that Mayor Charles Catttling invited them to cover the event through the department of tourism, but Polig did not listen.
When they were about to leave Polig’s house where the interview and apparently a round of drinks were served to the journalists, an unidentified male and Polig reportedly drew guns and cocked them.
Catajan’s experience is still so fresh in her that she fears for their lives
The formal request of Catajan and Cawis will be handed over to Cordillera police director Chief Supt. Eugene Martin Monday afternoon.
“I have received a fair warning via text message through my friend in Ifugao that the vice-mayor could play dirty and play hard,” Catajan said as she said that their supposed dialogue over the weekend to be mediated by Ifugao congressman Solomon Chungalao was reset to a latter date.
Lawyer Edgar Avila who has prepared Catajan’s formal criminal, administrative and civil damages complaint against Vice mayor Polig and his cohorts, had advised them to request Task Force Usig for security.
These cases however, admitted Catajan, will not prejudice any settlement to occur when vice mayor Polig can ask for a public apology. “So that such kinds of things cannot anymore happen to my colleagues,” she said.
Department of Tourism Cordillera director Purificacion Molintas, who herself invited Catajan and Cawis for the festival coverage in Alfonso Lista town where the “snapping incident” occurred said she is “closely coordinating an eventual meeting of the parties, in accordance with Cordillera culture.”
The “snapping incident” has received worldwide condemnation from international and Philippine–based press groups including the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) and the RP-based National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).
“The harassment that illustrates very clearly how the culture of impunity in this country is allowed to flourish and emboldens those who would wish to suppress the free Philippine press must be probed,” Joe Torres, NUJP president said.
Vincent Brossel, Asia – Pacific Desk of RSF who immediately condemned the harassment had also issued “alerts” on its worldwide network to ask Philippine authorities for an investigation.
“The incident, by itself, is a classic example of how, in the Philippines , petty warlord-politicians can lord it over isolated communities, wielding virtual life and death powers that have time and again proven fatal for vigilant community journalists,” Torress added.
Polig denied he and his men cocked their guns. Instead, turning the table against the two journalists, he claimed Catajan and Cawis were showing malicious public display of affection in front of him, thus insulting his position and presence.
Cawis is an employee of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA-CAR) regional office in Baguio City. # Ace Alegre