The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) are dismayed by the arrest of a former president of the National Press Club by the Manila Police District (MPD).
Jerry Yap was arrested on Sunday, April 5 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport as he returned from a week-long trip to Japan. Yap was arrested after a warrant was issued on March 30, by Judge Noli Diaz from the Manila RTC Branch 39 over a libel case filed against him. The case was filed by MPD-District Police Intelligence Operation Unit (DPIOU) chief Senior Inspector Rizalino Ibay, which stemmed from columns Yap wrote and published in the tabloid Hataw. The case also named Hataw’s managing editor, Gloria Galuno and circulation manager Edwin Alcala as co-accused. Yap spoke out against his arrest saying that it was meant to harass and silence him.
The NUJP noted that the arrest was a violation of a long-standing agreement between the Philippines National Police and major media groups, including NUJP, the National Press Council, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas and the Philippine Press Institute, to inform the organisations before arresting a journalist, particularly one accused of libel. The execution of the arrest on a weekend was also a violation of the agreement, which noted arrests would not be made late on Fridays or weekends, as not to deprive them the opportunity to post bail.
Rowena Paraan, chairperson of the NUJP said: “We demand that the PNP direct MPD director, Chief Superintendent Rolando Asuncion, to immediately issue a public explanation on the actions of his subordinates. We likewise demand that the PNP immediately conduct an investigation into this blatant violation of the standing agreement on the arrest of journalists and impose the fullest sanctions warranted against all officers and personnel found to have been complicit in this incident.”
The IFJ Asia-Pacific office said: “The arrest of Jerry Yap is an attack on press freedom and an attempt to intimidate and silence him. The manner in which his arrest took places highlights the issues facing journalists in the Philippines who are not supported by the authorities in their role and job.”
The IFJ joins the NUJP in its call for an immediate investigation into the actions of the MPD and the violation of the standing agreement on journalist arrests.