Monday, December 20, 2010

NUJP scores US soldiers' alleged shabby treatment of Zambo reporters

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) scored on Monday visiting American soldiers in Zamboanga City for their alleged shabby treatment of local journalists.

In a statement, the NUJP deplored as “arrogant and totally illegal" the manner in which US soldiers ordered Zamboanga City journalists to stop taking footage of the visit of retired general Edliberto Adan, the executive director of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) Commission.

According to the NUJP, Adan’s visit, particularly to the headquarters of the US military’s Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) inside the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), is in accordance with Executive Order 199, which authorized the VFA Commission to monitor the activities of foreign military and civilian personnel under the defense agreement. (

‘Don’t make me take your camera’

NUJP director and Zamboanga City-based journalists Julie Alipala said a local television reporter had complained that one of six American soldiers guarding the JSOTF-P headquarters allegedly said to a news crew, “I am ordering you not to take footages."

When one of the reporters asked what the basis for the order was, the American answered, “I don’t understand you but don’t make me take your camera," the NUJP added.

Alipala sought for comment Westmincom spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang. He justified to her that the American soldiers’ actions, saying the journalists were in a secure facility, and that “persons going there need clearance" to shoot photos or video footage.

Alipala, however, countered that the news crew was taking footage outside the task force headquarters.

“Even granting Cabangbang’s explanation, we maintain that foreigners still have absolutely no authority to tell Filipinos what we can or cannot do in our own country, much less threaten to confiscate their property," the NUJP stated.

“If they had any issue, they should have conveyed it to their local counterparts who could then have relayed these concerns to the journalists concerned," it added.

Put foreign troops ‘in their proper place’

The group likewise argued that even the JSOTF-P headquarters is not a sovereign American territory but remains Philippine territory which visiting foreign troops are only allowed to use by virtue of a defense agreement.

“We believe that ultimate authority over the facility resides in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine government, unless they have conceded this authority to what would then essentially be foreign occupiers," the group explained.

The NUJP is thus asking the VFA Commission to look into the “arrogant behavior" of the US soldiers, as it touches not only on security concerns but more so, on the country’s sovereignty.

“We also demand that the VFA Commission put the Americans in their proper place and warn them against any repetition of this arrogance. To let this incident pass is to abrogate our rights and liberties to foreigners," the journalists’ union added. – MRT, GMANews.TV

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