A GROUP of Bulacan-based journalists keeping track of the looming garbage crisis in Bulacan for a month now was intimidated and believed they were been harassed by a civilian-wearing armed man after covering the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) inspection and water sampling activity to a private sanitary landfill in Norzagaray town on Friday.
Erick Silverio, correspondent of Manila Times and current president of Bulacan Press Club condemned the incident as direct harassment on their part as working media and against press freedom.
Silverio also raised concern why armed civilian continue to roam around province despite a series of anti criminality operations staged by the Bulacan police.
Silverio who said they frequently monitored cases of presence of armed men appearing to be para-military and or private armed troops calls on PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde to go after these civilian armed wearing men.
In an Incident Report Form submitted on Sunday to Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Correspondent of Philippine Daily Inquirer and publisher of local Bulacan weekly newspaper News Core detailed how a civilian-wearing armed man on board a motorcycle intimidated her, Silverio and three other fellow media men.
In a police report before the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Bulacan office on Saturday, Estrope also made the same detailed report that she was with Silverio, Eloisa Silverio, correspondent of Diaryo Bomba/ Saksi Ngayon and IOrbit News online, Louie Angeles of DWIZ and Isagani Navarro, cameraman of GMA-7 Stringer Rommel Ramos were all on board a colored light gray Mitsubishi Adventure, a service vehicle of Provincial Public Affairs Office (PPAO) of the Bulacan Provincial Government when the unidentified gunman flagged them down at around 3:00 pm along Igay Road in Barangay Paradise 3.
They had just come from media coverage on the water sampling done by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the leachete of Wacuman sanitary landfill in San Mateo Norzagaray and were already heading back to the Bulacan Provincial Capitol when the incident happened.
Federico Rivas, driver of the vehicle and assigned to the PPAO’s Office pulled over. Angeles, seated on the front passenger seat then rolled down the window and asked why they were stopped.
The heavy built man in civilian clothes, wearing a faded fatigue short pants and a white shirt and a jacket and with dark complexion then asked if we were companions of Bulacan Provincial Engineer Glen Reyes who also with the group of concerned government agencies who conducted the inspection and water sampling activity, Estrope said.
The said armed person was asking for the mobile number of the provincial engineer where radio reporter Louie Angeles noticed that the man has a gun that was partly hidden by his jacket.
In protection to Engr. Reyes and adhering to right protocol, nobody gave the cell number the armed man was asking for.
“Hindi tayo otorisadong ibigay ang number ni Engr. Glenn, hindi natin ibibigay,” the Inquirer told all her colleagues.
“May baril pala iyan bakit kayo nagbubukas ng bintana? Dapat nga hindi tayo huminto ,” Silverio on his part told Angeles.
All the five media members who were all tired, soaked, wet and their bodies filled with mud going down and up the mountainous sites in Sitio Tiakad and in reaching the Kabubuaya upstream and mid-stream rivers for the water sampling were so eager to go back to Malolos and failed to record or take photo of the armed man.
As they go along however, they realized the incident was intended to intimidate and harass them and the query on the mobile number of Reyes was just the alibi.
If it was really all about Reyes phone number, the man could have directly ask that from the engineer himself because there was enough time within the Wacuman office where everyone has stayed before and after going up and down the rivers for the water sampling, Estrope added.
“Kung phone number ni Engr. Glenn ang totoong kailangan nila, doon pa lang sa Wacuman na nila kinuha iyon kanino man doon, hindi ganito na pinara tayo dito sa ilang na lugar at pinauna pa ang mga ibang sasakyan at ng tayo na lang ang nagdadaan, saka tayo hinarang at pinahinto,” Angeles told Inquirer.
On Tuesday, the Inquirer did no longer meet Reynaldo Cardona, former village chair of Paradise 3 and now city government personnel in-charge for the road works after she had already found out that the road in Igay that collapsed and he was earlier referring to as a private property was a long existing road the government had constructed.
Cardona in a meeting called by Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado on Thursday at the Provincial Capitol Building was the one who challenged the Wacuman and DENR for the water sampling of the leachete to prove his claims that the sanitary landfill is polluting Bulacan’s downstream waters and rivers.
Ramon Lazaro of Philippine Star and Shane Frias Velasco of Philippine Information Agency (PIA) were with other staffs of PPAO in another red plate vehicle but they were not flagged down by the armed man.
Silverio said their group is composed of all media men and if the armed man was really after the mobile number of Reyes, he should go after the other van where Reyes fellow provincial government employees were on board and not on the van of media group.