BAGUIO CITY — A local broadcast journalist branded as baseless, malicious and entirely false the allegations of La Union Rep. Thomas Dumpit that a Baguio-based TV station downplayed – by not airing on TV – the July raid and discovery of a trillion-peso shabu laboratory in Naguilian, La Union.
Dhobie de Guzman claimed Dumpit delivered in the House of representatives a privileged speech which identifies him as among the journalists who was ordered to downplay the shabu lab raid in La Union by not airing it on their TV network. De Guzman is the news desk editor of the ABS-CBN in this city.
In the privileged speech he delivered on August 5, Dumpit alleged that the drug syndicate spent millions and was successful in having a media news blackout (on the issue) and prevented the media from making the shabu raid a national story.
De Guzman pointed out the raid and development on the shabu lab in La Union was consistently covered by the station and cited various dates from July 9 to August 4 where the TV channel covered and aired said issue.
“I have never refused coverage if it was newsworthy,” said de Guzman in his statement handed to this reporter pointing that all invitations for coverage have been assigned to field reporters.
He added: “I have always chosen to do my duty within the bounds of what is true and ethical. I believe I have exercised fair judgement in every story I have assigned to my reporters. In every angle we pursue, we have public interest on top of our mind. Our lineup has always been balanced with every side to a story included.”
De Guzman said reporting all sides on the shabu lab issue put their team into “a damned-if-we-do and damned-if- we-don’t situation” as they are attacked by both sides.
One of their reporters received barrages of threats through text messages at the height of the shabu laboratory controversy.
At one point, another reporter was personally confronted by a former mayor of Agoo, La Union. This mayor, an alleged ally of Naguilian (La Union) mayor and vice-mayor reportedly asked a reporter: “Magkano ang bayad sa inyo ni Dumpit?” when they aired the story on Dumpit’s call for congressional inquiry on the shabu lab.
When the ABS-CBN Baguio experienced threats from various groups, they adopted means to change their travel patterns and routine after every coverage related on the shabu lab story.
De Guzman narrated that at the height of the shabu lab controversy, Dumpit invited the team to cover a distribution of pedicabs to drivers among his constituents which they did as they believed it newsworthy.
“But for him to dictate to us that the story should be presented as propaganda and imaging for him is unacceptable, we dropped the item which was really just his political gimmick,” he added.
De Guzman claimed he stood up to the challenge of every story he pursued. “Amid Dumpit’s accusation that I have compromised my integrity as a journalist and dignity as a person by accepting bribe, I humbly deny these lies. I have never and will never receive payola,” ended De Guzman.
In his privileged speech cited by De Guzman in his statement, Dumpit claimed that the media was not spared by the drug syndicate as he claimed “confirmed reports that unscrupulous reporters are under the payroll and identified a certain reporter from a national newspaper who is allegedly receiving monthly payroll to protect the drug syndicate and mislead the public.” # Arthur L. Allad-iw