By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Majority of media practitioners here stand firm on their call for La Trinidad municipal council to recall its resolution declaring a journalist persona non grata in the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) halls.
Art Allad-iw, vice chairperson of the National Union of Journalist in the Philippines (NUJP) Baguio-Benguet chapter said in an interview that they condemn the act of the council undermining the constitutional right of Jimmy Laking of Baguio Midland Courier in the exercise of his freedom of expression. “If Laking really committed a violation in the journalist code of ethics, why did they not file a case against him in court?,” he said. He said further that the council did not even conduct a public hearing before the issuance of the said resolution.
Allad-iw even called the council onion skinned. He said it is a normal thing for public officials to hear negative reactions from the people. If the council will not recall the resolution, NUJP he said will bring out the issue to the national and to the international level.
Baguio Correspondents and Braodcasters Club (BCBC) President Jun Villanueva in an interview said the SB resolution is clearly a supression of press freedom. He added that should the media keep quiet about Jimmy Laking’s case, it might set a precedent for other offices to ban media people if they do not like the reportage.
Villanueva shared that the SB wants the reporter to stop writing about the issue in his column for them to recall the resolution. He pointed out that there is a difference between news reportage and column writing. He stressed that unlike news where the reporter merely states the facts, a column contains the opinion of the writer.
“The SB needs to have a seminar to study and learn the different aspects of the media practice so that they will understand our work and that their future actions would be guided,” Villanueva said.
He further said that the media are still open for dialogue and they still hope for the proper solution of the issue.
The Baguio media is contemplating to stage protest actions regarding the matter.
On the other hand, Atty Delmar Carino, chairman of Benguet Press Corps (BPC) feel sad that the SB missed the whole point of their letter. He iterated that declaring Laking persona non grata is not a solution to their allegations of his violations to the code of ethics.
It can be recalled that the municipal council here on January 25 turned down the request of Baguio and Benguet media organizations to lift their resolution declaring Jimmy Laking a persona non grata in the SB office.
A letter from the SB addressed to BCBC and BPC stated that lifting the declaration will be misplaced. This according to them is because of prevailing instances that include the press releases of Laking assailing the action of the council.
Meanwhile, the council clarified that they are not shutting the doors of the SB office to Laking. They were accordingly merely expressing their collective sentiment that the said reporter is not welcome in their office. Also, the council in their letter questioned the media practitioners if they adhere to ethical standards in the exercise of their profession.
It can also be recalled that on December 21 last year, La Trininidad (LT) SB through a resolution unanimously approved by the members of the council declared Laking as persona non grata in their office. The action of the SB was because of several reasons like Laking’s negative tirades against the council in his numerous news and opinions published in the aforementioned newspaper anchored by his personal interests. Laking according to the council has violated journalist ethics. They also requested BCBC and BPC to probe on the council’s allegation and issue sanctions against him.
It can be further recalled that two days before the issuance of the resolution, Laking wrote regarding the controversial P268 million Jarco mall deal in his column. It was stated there that the pro-mall dominated council is wracking its head on how to overcome the obstacles to pave way for the mall’s realization. This and more issues were the reason of the persona non grata according to the council.
BPC and BCBC offered to broker a dialogue between the council and Laking to address the issue which the council accepted. However, there was no reply coming from the reporter if he wanted the said dialogue or not. Thus the media organizations cannot push through with it.
Moreover, the said media organizations on January 24 through a letter addressed to Vice mayor Romeo Salda requested the council to reconsider and recall the above mentioned resolution . The request was anchored by the organizations belief that the declaration was improper and is a violation to press freedom.
“Declaring a journalist persona non grata would pose serious repercussions on the right of access to public information guaranteed by the constitution,” the letter read. It was also stated that the declaration alone will hamper the people’s right to information imbued with public interest. This is because Laking has been declared unwelcome to the coverage of council meetings.
Furthermore, BCBC and BPC added that they believe there are available remedies that the council can avail of in order to address their allegations against Laking and that declaring the reporter persona non grata is not a wise decision. # nordis.net