MANILA, Philippines – A few days before the nation heads to the polls, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), in a statement, raised an appeal to "spare journalists from being targets in the May 9 political battle," sounding an alarm for what it called "bothersome demagoguery."
"We are worried about the frenzies of hatred among individuals who do not share the same political views, and against journalists whose reports and stories some quarters dislike because these casts a light on some aspects of the lives of their choices in the ballot," the NUJP statement, released Saturday, May 7, said.
It particularly cited a "pattern of harassments" hurled against journalists by some supporters of Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) standard-bearer and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
The statement acknowledged that the verbal and physical assaults "appear unorganized, spontaneous and bereft of official sanction," and also commended Duterte's spokesperson, Peter Tiu Laviña, who enjoined supporters to keep calm and refrain from attacking journalists. (READ: Duterte to supporters: Be civil, intelligent, decent, compassionate)
In monitoring colleagues from different media outlets, the NUJP cited several cases of harassment:
The NUJP also urged restraint from all camps: "A renewed call may be needed at this point given the already heated atmosphere as we move closer to Election Day, not just from Duterte’s camp but from those of other candidates, as well, since we cannot discount the possibility of rival operators exploiting the situation for their own ends." (VIRAL: Supporter to Duterte: 'No more negative remarks')
Their statement added: "It is important that journalists are not hindered by threats in carrying out the work that they do because our people deserve quality information at this crucial period of our country’s history so that they are able to decide better in the ballot."
The NUJP also addressed the public backlash against a political advertisement that negatively campaigned against the Davao City Mayor, noting that the harassment against ABS-CBN reporters and crew were more aggressive after it aired.
It clarified that as it was paid for by vice presidential candidate Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, "the ad was aired based on a commercial consideration and has nothing to do with the journalistic mission of ABS-CBN."
As mandated by the Omnibus Election Code, the last day of campaigning for candidates is on May 7 – after which no political advertisements are allowed.
It added that a "commitment not to resort to poll manipulation" from the presidential candidates might reduce the tension springing from "an alleged plan to rig the results of the upcoming polls and possibly snatch from Duterte his supposedly impending victory."
Finally, the statement addressed the journalists themselves – especially those stationed in so-called "election hotspots."
It read: "We understand that they are under extremely dangerous situations especially in their effort to uncover the poll manipulations which to this day has refused to leave our electoral system despite the adoption of automated vote counting."
"We urge our colleagues to adhere to the tenets of safety and security in going about our work of chronicling the 2016 political exercise," the statement added.
The NUJP appeal comes as the heated and emotionally charged race of around 44,000 candidates gunning for 18,000 elective positions – including the highest ones in the land – comes to its decisive day on Monday, May 9. (READ: Guide to 2016 Philippine elections)
Around 54.4 million registered voters are expected to cast their votes in a total of 92,509 clustered precincts nationwide. – Rappler.com