Treñas apologizes for outburst, files cyber libel complaint against Nereo Lujan

ILOILO. City Mayor Treñas files Cyber Libel complaint at the Iloilo City Prosecutors Office on May 21 2024 at 3:46 P.M
ILOILO. City Mayor Treñas files Cyber Libel complaint at the Iloilo City Prosecutors Office on May 21 2024 at 3:46 P.M (Jerry Treñas FB)

ILOILO City Mayor Jerry Treñas has issued a public apology for his outburst during a press conference (Monday morning, May 2024, while simultaneously announcing the filing of a cyber libel complaint against Nereo Lujan, the chief of the Iloilo Provincial Information and Community Affairs Office.

In a statement posted on his Viber on Monday at 9:46 p.m., May 20, 2024 Treñas addressed his behavior and clarified his actions.

"I would like to apologize for my outburst this morning. This was totally uncalled for. First, it was reported that the central market restoration is under investigation by the Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Second, Com Ivan Henares himself said Unesco does not investigate and if at most NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Philippines) will check with NHCP (National Historical Commission of the Philippines) on the approval made, Treñas said said in his statement.

"Third, I did not threaten to file cases against any member of media. Fourth, I will be filing several cases against Nereo Lujan, a civil servant like me. Fifth, I have not filed any case or threatened to file any case against any member of media in my almost four decades of public service. Sixth, I only quoted the text to me of Com Ivan Henares about 'irresponsible reporting' -- his text is still in my phone," Treñas added.

Treñas further reiterated his position in a press conference on Monday, where he initially announced his intent to file charges of cyber libel, a civil case for damages, and another undetermined case before the Civil Service Commission against Lujan.

On May 21 2024 at 3:46 p.m., Treñas filed a cyber libel complaint at the Iloilo City Prosecutors Office. 

"I have filed a cyber ;ibel complaint at the Iloilo City Prosecutors Office, Hall of Justice," Treñas confirmed.

On May 22, 2024, Lawyer Aloysius de la Cruz requested media coordination with Treñas law offices for filed and unfiled cases.

"For the cases filed against Nereo Lujan and those yet to be filed, I request our members of the media to coordinate with the Treñas law offices or with Atty Aloysius de la Cruz or his designated spokesperson," Treñas said.

The controversy began with media reports on the investigation into the Iloilo Central Market demolition. 

These reports, according to Treñas, inaccurately suggested an ongoing Unesco investigation, which he clarified was not the case. 

Treñas cited a text from Henares, who reportedly described the reporting as "irresponsible."

Condemnation

The Iloilo Press expressed concern over Treñas' threats against journalists, emphasizing the importance of accurate and fair reporting. 

In a unity statement, the press underscored their commitment to reporting on matters of significant public interest, such as the central market demolition, and criticized Treñas' threats as an attack on media freedom.

"We members of the Iloilo Press are deeply concerned with Mayor Jerry Treñas' recent threats against our colleagues. Irresponsible reporting involves fabricating stories, twisting words, and sensationalizing issues unfairly. However, our coverage, along with that of other media outlets, accurately reflected the statements made by Dr. Ivan Anthony Henares," the statement read.

The statement highlighted that Henares, as the secretary general of the Unesco National Commission of the Philippines and a commissioner of the NCCA, raised concerns about the demolition during a public forum. The press reported his words faithfully, seeking comments from Treñas for a balanced perspective.

"Mayor Treñas’ reaction, including his threats to sue journalists, is not only unfortunate but also chilling. It is unbecoming of a public official who claims to champion freedom. While the mayor has apologized, his denial of the threats, despite evidence, casts doubt on the sincerity of his apology," the press statement added.

The press statement said reports by various groups, like the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, have been concerned with the rising cases of "lawfare,” or the use of legal means to harass and intimidate journalists.

"We stand by the Iloilo City Hall Press Corps and their right to report on matters of public interest without fear of intimidation. The press plays a crucial role in holding public officials accountable, and any attempts to undermine this role through threats of legal action are unacceptable," the statement said.

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Panay also condemned Treñas' behavior during the press conference on May 20, where he accused several journalists and media companies of "irresponsible" reporting and threatened legal action against them.

"College Editors Guild of the Philippines- Panay condemn the brazen, unruly, and rash behavior of Mayor Treñas. It is such a shame to malign and threaten journalists, who are only doing their responsibilities to report the matter. This is a clear depiction of media censorship and a blatant attack on media and press freedom," the guild stated.

The guild emphasized the importance of journalism in a democracy, stating that attacks on journalists hinder the free flow of information and public awareness. 

They also called for a safer environment for journalists and praised those who remain vigilant despite the threats.

"Journalists play a vital role in a healthy democracy by holding authority accountable and keeping the public informed. If they're constantly under threat, this free flow of information gets choked off, hindering public awareness," the statement said.

The guild said it lauds those who remain vigilant amidst the recent attack. It is in challenging moments like these that we see the importance and relevance of journalism.

"This also serves as a reminder to campus and student journalists that given the continuous and constant attacks against the media and the press, we remain steadfast and we continue to not just hold the line, but propagate and advance it for truth, justice, and liberation for all," the statement said. 

In light of these developments, the press and media organizations in Iloilo City continue to call for respect for their role in society and emphasize the need for honest and transparent governance. (Leo Solinap/SunStar Philippines)

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