Journalist linked by military to NPA, to file ‘Writ of Amparo’

FOR linking her to the New People’s Army rebels, journalist Inday Espina-Varona is considering filing a Writ of Amparo against the top officers of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) based here in Cagayan de Oro City.

Espina-Varona, in a statement, said that she would resort to legal remedies after the military has linked her to the NPA rebels who allegedly torched a branch of an alternative high school for the lumad youth in Sibagat town in Agusan del Sur on November 12.

A Writ of Amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty, and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission.

The issue stemmed from the press release of the 4ID with the headline 'Former NPA Commander Says: NPA did it to Generate Fund,' in response to human rights groups' reports on the burning of the teachers' cottage in Sibagat town.

In the statement, Colonel Alexander Macario, 401st Infantry Brigade commander, said Varona's speed in giving reports is questionable considering the 401st still hadn't conducted proper investigation at the time the incident occurred.

Macario said the witnesses reported the incident to barangay officials at 6 a.m. on November 12, but Espina-Varona immediately released information at around 8:30 a.m.

"This brings everyone to a question on where she gets information. Aside from witnesses, the only persons who can give this information are the perpetrators. It seems that this incident is planned and orchestrated," Macario said in the statement.

But Espina-Varona said what she posted were alerts released from the rights group Karapatan, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes, and Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

She said that Macario imputed two things in the statement released to the media: "That the time frame negates having gotten information from witnesses and that I must have received information from NPA rebels, the alleged perpetrators, as part of a conspiracy to wage propaganda against the military and raise funds for armed rebellion."

“In linking me to a grave crime – arson – and to what they perceive as an NPA campaign, Colonel Macario and Captain Jo Patrick Martinez, hurled a grave threat to my liberty and physical safety and my journalism career,” she added.

She takes the AFP statement as no mere rebuttal of a news report or a shared alert. She also worries on her travel as she frequents Mindanao in the course of her work.

“Given this context, I cannot just shrug off the 4th ID threat or leave it to the heavens to inject good sense into the minds of these military officers. I need stronger protection from the law. Thus, I am starting moves to file for a writ of amparo by the Supreme Court, while keeping options open on other legal remedies,” she added.

Joseph Alwyn Alburo, National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) chairperson, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone that they fully support Espina-Varona in whatever legal steps she will take.

“We will support Inday in her legal actions against the 4th Infantry Division. We will be behind her,” he said.

Alburo added the NUJP is also taking into consideration on filing the Writ of Habeas Data on behalf of all the journalists in the country who have been linked by the military to the rebels when they're just doing their job.

For his part, Martinez, spokesperson of the 4ID, said the Division has no intention in red-baiting Varona.

He said the statement was meant to question the authenticity of the information considering that the investigation had yet to be conducted at that time.

"The 4ID has a high regard to every media practitioner and treats everyone as our partner for peace and development especially in conveying the right information for public empowerment," Martinez said.
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