We in the AlterMidya (People’s Alternative Media Network) deplore and condemn the red-tagging and sexual harassment on Bulatlat.com reporter Janess Ann Ellao by the lawyer of Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, one of the accused in the enforced disappearance of UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.
As one of the co-accused of retired Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., Osorio is charged with serious illegal detention and kidnapping.
On September 16, Bonifacio Alentajan, lawyer of Osorio, approached Ellao who was covering the hearing in the regional trial court in Malolos, Bulacan. Alentajan asked if Ellao was a reporter, and demanded that he be interviewed.
While talking to Ellao, Alentajan started touching Ellao’s elbow and right arm. Ellao immediately felt uncomfortable and moved away. The lawyer suddenly shouted at Ellao and demanded that she listen and pay attention.
Ellao asked Alentajan why he was shouting but the lawyer continued to yell at Ellao and called her “impolite”. She asked the lawyer why he was being hostile. Alentajan continued to shout while walking away.
After the incident, a reporter overheard Alentajan tell his fellow lawyers “Putang-ina, yung reporter na yun leftist naman.” (Son of a b*tch, that reporter is a leftist)
Labeling journalists as leftist is dangerous especially in the Philippines, exposing those so tagged to targeting by state security forces and the paramilitaries they control. We remind Alentajan that many victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other forms of human rights violations had been so tagged, as his own clients know so well.
Bulatlat, together with other alternative media organizations in the Philippines, has been consistent in its human rights reporting. But we will not be cowed by any form of harassment, especially since it is our duty to tell the truth and to give voice to the voiceless and marginalized by the corporate media.
We are therefore calling on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to investigate Alentajan for his sexist and unprofessional conduct—and for our colleagues in the media and his peers in the law profession to condemn his reprehensible behavior.