“While the Constitution gives Congress the power to investigate abuses of the law, it is meant to aid legislation and certainly not meant to be used against a journalist who wrote about alleged corruption in the House.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Journalists and press freedom advocates condemned what they call as “bullying” of a journalist.
On Tuesday, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga moved to cite The Standard reporter Christine Herrera in contempt when the latter refused to reveal her sources in a controversial report.
Herrera’s article, “Crime lord paid BBL ‘payola’?” quoted unnamed sources claiming that some lawmakers were paid off to vote for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The money, according to the report, came from Chinese national Wang Bo.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said the threat against Herrera “is a brazen act of bullying.”
In refusing to name her sources, Herrera cited Republic Act 53, or the Sotto Law.
Section 1 of the law states, “The publisher, editor or duly accredited reporter of any newspaper, magazine or periodical of general circulation cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news-report or information appearing in said publication which was related in confidence to such publisher, editor or reporter, unless the court or a House or committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the interest of the State.”
Rupert Francis Mangilit, NUJP secretary general, said the law “was precisely enacted to protect sources of reporters and the journalists themselves against any attempt to force them to identify sources who have offered information on the condition of anonymity.”
The NUJP feared that the incident could set a precedent on Congressional investigations involving journalists and poses a threat to the integrity of the media and journalists.
In a statement, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) branded the incident as “the latest attack on press freedom.”
Edre Olalia, NUPL secretary general, said that while the Constitution gives Congress the power to investigate abuses of the law, it is meant to aid legislation and “certainly not meant to be used against a journalist who wrote about alleged corruption in the House.”