The Bohol Tri-Media Association (BTMA) reacted sharply on two separate incidents which appear as a glaring affront to media.
During a board meeting last Friday, the board of directors of BTMA headed by its president, Bohol Chronicle Radio Corp. Chairman Peter Dejaresco questioned the move of the Sangguniang Bayan of Ubay in banning two municipal public information officers from attending theÂ sessions of the town’s law making body.
SB resolution No. 117 banned Joy De Guzman and Charluth Garcia, both municipal information officers who are broadcasters at the same time, from attending regular sessions of the Sangguniang Bayan.Â Â In their sponsored resolution, Kagawads Victor Bonghanoy and Estaquio Bacolod cited the two broadcasters as having “negative comments regularly aired on radio and cable TV for the past six monthsÂ against five members of the Sangguniang Bayan and that the public comments are libelous, irresponsible, exhibiting conduct contrary to norms of public service.”
The two information officers cried foul saying “they were denied due process and that the ban was made in haste devoid of committee hearing and investigation.”
In questioning the move, the BTMA stated that “in no instance that the public, or any individual be banned from attending proceedings of a session of a law making body as such act is tantamount to suppression of access to public information.”
“Time and again public officials have to be reminded that they are servants of the people who must be the first to uphold the constitution and the laws, than be violators thereof. Freedom of the press is guaranteed in the BIll of Rights and must be upheld. People have the constitutional right to information on matters of public concern,” the BTMA statement streesed.
The local press group said “needless to say, public officials found violating these sacred provisions may be held to account civilly and criminally, particularly under the anti graft and corrupt practices act for for violating the code of conduct of public officials under Republic Act No. 6713.”
The press statement continued that the reason why session have to be covered by media and the public is because of the mandate of the Constitution that a public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people.
Meanwhile, the BTMA likewise condemned the recent incident involving broadcast journalist Chito Visarra, anchorman of DYRD’s “Inyong Alagad” public affairs program and senior writer of the Bohol Chronicle who was the object of harassment by a certain Henry Calipusan, brother of Loboc Mayor Helen Calipusan Alaba.
The local press association cited that “in our civilized environment, there are appropriate venues to seek redress of grievances, They can air their side of any controversy in the media outfit where they are attacked. It is always best to bring public issues in the arena of public discussion and debate as it will result to an enlightened public. Should they feel their rights are violated, those affected can take their grievances to our courts”.
Henry Calipusan, brother of Mayor Alaba “violently entered Jemma Balbin’s residence without permission and threatened Visarra after he barged into the house and shouted at Balbin “Naa kay atraso nako, si Chito naa poy atraso nako. Ayaw ko ninyo ing-ania kay pwede isod mo nako sa akong mga kamot” (You and Chito have committed an offense against me. Don’tÂ do this to me because I can put you under my hands).
Balbin, a former barangay kagawad (councilor) of Jimilian, Loboc was caught by surprise by the violent verbal assault from Calipusan who also grabbed her arm while pointing a threatening finger at Balbin’s daughter who was tearfully begging Calipusan to stop his rantings against them.
Balbin’s daughters, son and grandchildren bore the brunt of Calipusan’s violence after Visarra who has been living with the Balbins for more than 17 years backed off from the initial confrontation and stayed in the kitchen to avoid further escalation of the incident.
The entire incident where Calipusan entered the living room of Balbin and berated and threatened her family and Visarra was captured on video thru a smartphone taken by one of the family member and is now going viral on social media with more thanÂ 370,000 views on Facebook.
The commotion involving Visarra was triggered after Calipusan got mad at the broadcaster who called the attention of persons believed to be friends of Calipusan to what appeared to Visarra to be fire burning close to their fence.
According to Visarra during an interview on DYRD “Inyong Alagad” that the group initially heeded his request by lifting the iron grill from the fire in preparation for their transfer to a safer place. Apparently the fire was for coals intended for barbeque for their drinking spree.
Visarra said “I was caught by surprise when Calipusan appeared out of the blue andÂ attempted to hurl a stone at me and shouting invectives “Letse kang yawa-a ka pahawod hawod ka di ra ba ka taga dinhi” (You devil, you are acting superior here. You are not from this place).
Visarra raised his concern since the house they are staying are structures intended for earthquake victims built of light materials. The Balbin residence was totally damaged during the October 15, 2013 earthquake and was almost inundated by raging floodwaters on December, 2014 caused by Typhoon Seniang.
Since his explanation fell on deaf ears after Calipusan was raging mad and initially attempted to force himself through the iron gate, Visarra backed off and entered the house and called for police assistance.
Calipusan succeeded in entering the premises and the house by kicking the gate leading to the garage together with some of his friends, according to witnesses.
Alaba, in an interview said that “the Calipusan’s” have been quiet about the “highhanded manner” Visarra and Balbin were bringing issues which would trigger public opinion against them.
But three term former Mayor Leon Calipusan, brother of Alaba clarified that Visarra did not use the airlanes to discuss issues against them but said “Sila and gadala ug samok sa Barangay Jimili-an” (They are bringing trouble to our neighborhood).
OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
Listeners thru calls and text messages roundly condemned the Mayor’s response to the incident that showed her sympathy towards the actions of her brother despite her pleas that the prevailing volatile situation be settled as soon as possible.
When informed about the incident involving his brother on Sunday, September 6, 2015 at around 7:15 in the evening, Calipusan called up his sister, Mayor Alaba to help diffuse the tension in Jimili-an.
Responding policemen arrived after the incident and was reportedly prevented by Henry Calipusan from entering the residence of Balbin but PO3 Torrejos and PO1 Gujelde provided security to Visarra until they were safe to proceed to the police station to file their complaint at 11PM.
But Visarra, the BTMA Vice President for Print reacting to Alaba’s statement expressed disappointment that the Mayor was condoning the behavior of her brother while the former Mayor resorted to character assassination to justify his brothers actions.
“I never took up any personal issue against the Calipusan’s as alleged by the Mayor and her brother except when I stood up for Henry Calipusan regarding his alleged illegal collection of P10/head from guests of the floating restaurants since documents provided by Henry himself showed that this was a legitimate business arrangement between businessmen”.
“We also raised the issue of the construction of a building by the Calipusan’s sans any excavation, demolition and building permits and filed it with the local police since our complaints were ignored by the municipal engineer”, added Visarra.
Calipusan admitted Visarra’s allegation saying “that’s true when the building was constructed there was no building permit because it was still under process and that is how things are being done here in Loboc as far as construction is concerned. We now have a building permit”.
No apology in behalf of her brother was forthcoming from the Mayor and assurances for the safety of the family of Visarra despite what they called “a friendly neighborhood misunderstanding”.
Balbin is now recovering from a severe anxiety attack after she was rushed to the hospital on Tuesday morning, September 7, 2015 due to blood pressure reading of 60/40 while her family life has been disrupted.
The family left their residence in Jimilian, Loboc for fear of retaliation for bringing their anguish under Calipusan to the public eye while Visarra who went on leave has sought police protection from the Provincial Police Office due to the sensitivity of the situation and the reported volatile temper of Henry Calipusan.
Legal charges are now being readied for filing, according to Atty. Aleck Francis Lim, legal counsel of Visarra and Balbin telling the Chronicle that “based on the narration of events by my clients charges of Qualified Trespass to Dwelling, Child Abuse and Grave threats are now being prepared”.
Calipusan recently completed drug rehabilitation after Alaba convinced him to undergo treatment for his drug problem even as he completed probation for a conviction for frustrated homicide.