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UN Rapporteur visits jailed ‘Tacloban 5’

UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan visits journalist Frenchie Cumpio and human rights defenders Marielle Domequil and Alexander Abinguna at the Tacloban City Jail over the weekend. (Photo Courtesy: Kahn via X)
Rey E. Requejo

United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan visited members of the “Tacloban 5” at the Tacloban City Jail, where they are being held on suspicion of having ties to the New People’s Army (NPA).

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) said Khan arrived at the Tacloban City jail on Saturday, Jan. 27. She checked on the condition of Frenchie Mae Castro Cumpio, Mariel Alvez Domequil, and Alexander Philip Dizon Abinguna.

Cumpio, who is allegedly the secretary of the Regional White Area Committee of the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee, and four other suspected communist rebels were arrested in February 2020.

They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives after the military said they found two hand grenades, two .45 caliberpistols, ammunition, a flag of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and P567,000 in cash when they were presented with a search warrant.

Khan arrived in the Philippines last Jan. 22 and will be in thecountry until Feb. 2 to assess the current state of rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

Aside from Tacloban, Khan is scheduled to visit Metro Manila, Baguio City, and Cebu City for dialogues, focusing on the exploration of legal and policy frameworks in connection with the safety of journalists and their sources, media freedom, access to information, and hate speech, among others.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) meanwhile expressed gratitude to Khan for visiting Cumpio, Domequil, and Abinguna.

In a tweet, Khan said, “We are only int’l visitors so far allowed by Philippines govt to visit them! Arrested in Feb 2020, trial still dragging on. How long should they wait to be free?”

In a statement, the NUJP said that the three should not wait any minute longer to be free. They are victims of fabricated charges and the evidence against them was planted, and the testimonies against them falsified, the NUJP said.

“We hope that the Special Rapporteur would push for recommendations that would stop these violations,” the group said.

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