The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemns the assault on Roberto “Bobby” Labalan, a member of our national directorate, by Joseph Yap III, a contractor who also happens to be a brother of Mayor Jocelyn Yap-Lelis of Prieto-Diaz, Sorsogon.
According to Labalan, who edits “Sorsogon Now” and also heads the Sorsogon Media Forum, he was chatting to colleagues Sunday morning at a Sorsogon City coffee shop frequented by journalists, government officials and other newsmakers when Yap walked up, asked, “Nano kay tinira mo ko sa dyaryo (Why did you hit me in the paper)?” then punched him, grazing him on the left cheek.
Yap continued to throw punches but Labalan parried these until onlookers pulled away the attacker.
Among those who witnessed the incident was Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee.
According to Labalan, what apparently earned him Yap’s ire was an article published in “Sorsogon Now” involving alleged irregularities in a project implemented by the contractor in the town of which his sister is mayor.
The article in question, which ran on August 7, carried Yap’s side of the story.
This incident is yet one more example of how impunity perpetuates itself in this country, courtesy of a system of governance that relies on political expediency and family ties.
Apparently Yap is one of those who feel kinship to persons of authority entitles him to that same authority and the power to use – or abuse – it as he sees fit.
Coupled with government apathy, this is why journalists around the country and most especially in the provinces continue to be harassed, threatened, assaulted and killed with hardly anyone called to account. And while we’re at it, this, too, is why corruption continues to flourish.
We demand that authorities in Sorsogon province ensure the safety of Labalan and assist him as he pursues a complaint he intends to file against Yap. We also demand that they investigate Yap thoroughly in light of the fact that this is the second time he has assaulted a journalist – the first being the late Mark Mella – and reports he might have been armed when he assaulted our director.
The attack on Labalan came just more than a week after two motorcycle-riding men went to the house in Zamboanga City of Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter Julie Alipala, also a member of the NUJP national directorate, seemingly with intent to threaten or harm her.
We deplore these and similar acts and call on the authorities to ensure the safety of media workers, conduct a thorough investigation and arrest those found liable for any crime.