Death threat prompts calls for probe, protection for Manila Times’ Jomar Canlas

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Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas at the House Committee on Justice hearing the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on November 27. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon

The spokespersons of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the Justice and Court Reporters Association (JUCRA) are calling for an investigation into the death threat received by Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas.

The threat came via SMS from the mobile number 0918-560-8590 after Canlas testified in the House Committee on Justice’s hearing on the impeachment complaint against Sereno on November 27.

Before the House Committee on Justice on November 27, Canlas had denied “intimating” to Atty. Lorenzo Gadon, the complainant in the impeachment case, that his source of information, which Gadon used to bolster certain allegations against the chief magistrate, was Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita De Castro.

Canlas only acknowledged that he met with Gadon, in March, to discuss the stories he had written about the Chief Justice, including the ones titled, “Psychiatrists who tested Sereno fired”, “Sereno in hot water over fake resolution”, and “Justice blasts Sereno over TRO mess”.

Canlas said he never disclosed to Gadon any of his sources.

On Monday, Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) executive director Undersecretary Joel Egco posted on his Facebook page the image of a cellphone displaying two of the same message, which read, “Puta ang ina mo Jomar Canlas, 3 kami ang papatay sa ‘yo, marami ka na kasalanan sa amin, magbilin ka na sa asawa mo at anak mo, bago ka mamatay. Hindi ‘to pananakot, this time talagang patay ka Jomar (Your mother is a whore, Jomar Canlas, there will be three of us who will kill you, you have wronged us many times, you’d better talk to your wife and kids before you die. This isn’t us trying to scare you, this time you’re gonna die Jomar).”

The message bore the timestamp of Friday, 2:22 p.m.

“We, members of the Justice and Court Reporters Association (JUCRA), strongly condemn the death threat received by our colleague and friend, Manila Times senior reporter Jomar Canlas,” JUCRA said in a statement on Wednesday.

“As vanguards of truth in the Justice and Judiciary beat, we stand behind Jomar against this act of cowardice and attack on our constitutionally enshrined freedom of the press. We must never allow intimidation and harassment of journalists as we stand pat on our duty as a watchdog of democracy.”

In a statement on the same day, Sereno’s spokespersons cited her as saying it is the duty of the courts to “ensure that the media may shine a light, where and when needed, by protecting the crucial freedoms that ensure independence of the press.”

She urged authorities to ensure that Canlas and other journalists “are protected and are able to work without fear of reprisal.”

Egco, on his Facebook post, said he will “diligently record and monitor this and instruct our member law enforcement agencies to act with dispatch.”

“Mag-iingat po tayong lahat. Kahit kami sa PTFoMS ay nag-iingat din. Minsan ang mga kalaban ay nasa paligid lang. Kadalasan pareho ng baro (Let us all take care. Even we in PTFoMS are being careful. Sometimes the enemies lurk nearby. Often, they’re our colleagues),” he continued.

Egco said they are striving to protect all media workers in the country despite the lack of resources, and despite “the enemy” having the money to use against them.

“Bukas ang aming tanggapan anumang oras. Hindi tayo patatakot sa kanila (Our office is open any time. We will not be cowed by them),” he stressed.