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SESSION 3: Difficulties of Reporting Human Rights and Making the Relevant Interesting

RESOURCE PERSON: Francis Allan Angelo, The Daily Guardian

Transcript of Francis’ talk

I would like to greet everyone. Good evening from Florida where I am right now. I am currently attending an international visitors leadership program ng US State Department focusing on disinformation and we’re actually on the second to the last leg of this program, and well, I was supposed to have my presentation, but I think something went awry.]

I cannot find it anymore, but I will breeze through my presentation so we can go forward sa open forum later. So there are certain guide questions that were provided to me by extending the start of the discussion debate. Well, basically I will speak from experience, particularly dito sa Iloilo. The two things came to mind when I was invited by Ms. Melinda and CMFR for this forum. For one, the December 30, 2021 incident in Kalinog, Iloilo, and Dapaz, Capiz where several indigenous peoples leaders were actually killed and some were arrested by joint military and police forces on the suspicion that they were rebels in the particular area. And a second, the latest, the more recent issue was upon the best unknown inmates in one of the Bureau of Jail and Management.

Bureau of Jail and Management and Penology facilities in the province where hundreds of persons deprived of liberty held a protest action against the way the jail was being managed particularly doon sa kanilang mga pagkain, food allowances nila, then sa visitation rights and procedures and some other things that delve into their welfare inside the jail. The most common difficulty in tackling these issues, for one, is we will always almost always only get one side of the story, particularly from authorities, the police and the military, because they’re are sometimes very quick to provide, you know, information, depending on the slant or spin that they would want the public to learn or be informed about. Second, we have allies. We have friends from the human rights sector, particularly the more progressive groups who provide information and insights on what is…well, some the police would always say the military would always say na that’s their version of the story. That’s their own take on particular issues. But these groups are actually also helpful in providing tips on how we should cover human rights issues in our respective communities and dagdag ko na rin po yung latest na nangyari sa Himamaylan, Negros Occidental where almost a week or more na sunod-sunod yung clashes between military forces and suspected rebels doon sa mga hinterland areas ng Himamaylan.

Well of course, the exchange is always between, you know, the military, incident reports. And of course, magka-counter yung kabila, yung CPP-NPA. But in the course of this reporting I was asking my reporters in Negros, what about the people who were displaced because there were thousands of residents in at least five barangays who were displaced from their homes.

They were forced into evacuation centers. Kasi nga they will be caught in the crossfire between this, habulan ng mga rebelde saka ng military doon sa bundok ng Himamaylan. The latest count was like, 15,000 residents in several barangays who were evacuated to schools. And of course, classes were also affected. So, sabi ko, in the middle of this exchange between the military and the rebels where is the voice of these displaced people.

Ano’ng kapalaran nila? Ano’ng nangyayari sa kanila? They also deserve to have a space in our news coverage because their rights are also affected. Their right to live peacefully in their communities, their right to go ahead with their lives, magsasaka man sila or whatever. And, unfortunately, Marcel Espina of Digicast in Bacolod, Rappler, and also our reporter in Daily Guardian, Glaser Mascolino actuall braved going to the evacuation site. Well, they went, they tagged along with the local officials. But when they reached the area, there was a bit of, you know, a gaggle or a controversy na hindi agad sila pinapasok sa evacuation centers to talk to the people. But sabi ko, maghanap kayo ng paraan …you can negotiate with the authorities na you can talk to the people and get firsthand information on how the residents are doing in the evacuation centers. Anong mga experience nila? Anong nakita nila? So at least we can…malalagay, mabibigyan nating sila ng boses. Hindi lang yung sa military, or sa rebels.

That’s the difficulty of covering human rights issues lao na sa mga communities namin because, number one, access to whom to talk to and well in the case of that jail facility where the inmates staged a protest, Karapatan sent us some, you know, like information briefing, particularly, which tackled not just what happened to the particular jail facility, but the, you know, what is actually happening all over the country when it comes to the welfare of our inmates or persons deprived of liberty. So yung malalaking issues doon na tinackle namin, which we also carried, para at least hindi lang yung in the incident report na nangyari sa jail facility. But we present a bigger issue and what’s happening in our jail facilities, hindi lang ‘to sa Iloilo, but it also happens in some other areas in general po, Ms. Melinda. I also want to give our fellow panelists to share their own experience

That is my general view or observation of human rights reporting, at least from the point of view, at least sa amin dito sa Iloilo.


Francis Allan Angelo has been a journalist for Iloilo’s Daily Guardian for 20 years, starting as a field reporter until he landed the job of editor-in-chief. He is a member of the Iloilo Press Club, of which he served as president in 2013 and 2014. Francis also heads the Iloilo Community-Press Council, which aims to professionalize the media sector and establish networks with the broader community on various issues on press freedom and ethics.

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