Manibela strikers slammed for ‘attacking’ newshound

MEMBERS of the transport group Manibela en route to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and Land Transportation Office headquarters in Quezon City, where they would figure in a violent protest action.
MEMBERS of the transport group Manibela en route to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and Land Transportation Office headquarters in Quezon City, where they would figure in a violent protest action. PHOTOGRAPH BY ANALY LABOR FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE @tribunephl_ana

Media organizations and the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) on Monday condemned a violent attack on a radio reporter allegedly by members of the transport group Manibela during a protest rally outside the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) office in Quezon City.

In a statement, PTFoMS strongly denounced the assault on Val Gonzales, a veteran field reporter for DZRH radio, who was covering the transport strike organized by Manibela on East Avenue.

“PTFoMS strongly denounces the physical attack by members of the transport group Manibela against a member of the press covering a transport strike early today in Quezon City,” the media security task force said.

Undersecretary Paul Gutierrez, PTFoMS executive director, said the attack on Gonzales, which involved punches to his waist, was unacceptable and detracted from the transport group’s cause.

“The physical abuse committed against Val Gonzales cannot earn any public support for the transport group or the issues they are trying to promote,” Gutierrez said.

According to Gutierrez, who spoke with Gonzales and other journalists present, Gonzales was reporting from East Avenue, which the protest group had blocked, when without any provocation he was punched twice in the waist by a Manibela member.

“We strongly condemn this violence against a member of the media, our colleague Val Gonzales, who was merely performing his duty of reporting on a national event,” Gutierrez said in Filipino.

Gutierrez said he has coordinated with Quezon City Police District director Brig. Gen. Red Maranan to summon Manibela chairman Mario Valbuena regarding the violent actions of his members.

Not the first time

It was not the first incident of aggression allegedly committed by the group. During an earlier transport strike, DZBB field reporter Allan Gatus was verbally abused by Manibela members.

“Our fellow reporters covering the strike today have also reported similar harassment. In addition to the attack on Val Gonzales, Manibela members openly accused the media of being ‘paid off’ and biased against their group,” Gutierrez said.

“If Mr. Valbuena’s group believes that such accusations and violence against the media will help their cause, they are mistaken. We believe the public will not support actions accompanied by harassment and intimidation,” he added.

Gutierrez said the task force is ready to support Gonzales, who has expressed his intention to sue the transport group.

“We assure Val Gonzales that PTFoMS is fully supportive of his decision to take legal action against those involved in the attack,” Gutierrez said.

In solidarity with Gonzales, several media organizations, including the Philippine National Police Press Corps, the Justice Reporters Organization (JUROR), and Quezon City Journalists Inc., also condemned the assault. They stressed that Gonzales was only performing his duty to provide the public with necessary information.

The groups vowed that those responsible for the assault on Gonzales would face the appropriate consequences.

The LTFRB said it is mulling criminal charges against the jeepney drivers and operators behind the violent protest action.

LTFRB Chair Manuel Guadiz said those responsible for mauling a radio reporter during the protest will face criminal lawsuits, deferring further details to police investigators.

Guadiz revealed the agency is pursuing civil disturbance charges against individuals identified during the strike.

The plate numbers of the jeepneys used during the protest were recorded, including CVC589, CWS649, CWN599, NVL400, PXN744, TWC185, DWD355, PXZ198, TWU665, TDB827, PWX530, UVF887, PYM55380 and TLG326.

“We were able to list down the participants,” Guadiz said. “I will ensure that these participants, operators, and drivers will not be issued franchises. The drivers will also face a one-year suspension.”

The strike targeted the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).

The stricter stance by the LTFRB has cast uncertainty on the future of over 10,000 jeepneys nationwide deemed to be operating illegally, or “colorum.” These vehicles did not comply with the PUVMP’s modernization requirements.

Mario Talens, an operator of four traditional jeepneys plying the Blumentrit-Sta. Cruz-Baclaran route, lamented his decision not to join the PUVMP.

“Since they’re all considered colorum now, I will have to register them for private use,” Talens said in a mix of Tagalog and English. “I might have to use them as vegetable haulers or turn them into food jeep stands to sell pares (beef stew).”

Daily Tribune