4th year in detention: DOJ asked to junk cases of Frenchie Mae Cumpio, 2 others

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
4th year in detention: DOJ asked to junk cases of Frenchie Mae Cumpio, 2 others
This photo shows UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan visiting Frenchie Mae Cumpio, Mariel Domequil and Alexander Philip Abinguna in a Tacloban prison on Jan. 27, 2024.
Twitter / Irene Khan

MANILA, Philippines — Media groups on Wednesday urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the case of detained journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and human rights advocates Mariel Domequil and Alexander Philip Abinguna. 

In a joint letter addressed to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, the media groups called for the end of the four-year detention of Cumpio and the human rights workers. 

“Their continued detention and the prolonged litigation process underscore the urgency for action,” the joint letter read.

“We trust that the DOJ will take swift and just action under your leadership to review and hopefully dismiss the charges against Ms. Cumpio, Ms. Domequil, and Mr. Abinguna,” it added.

The joint letter was signed by the chairpersons of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines and Altermidya network. 

The groups also echoed the call of United Nations Rapporteur for freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan for an immediate review and dismissal of charges should the evidence be lacking. 

“We emphasize that this call aligns with the DOJ's commitment to ‘only file cases with a reasonable certainty of conviction,’ as stated in various memoranda and correspondence your office recently released,” the group’s letter read. 

The groups also urged the DOJ to conduct an “impartial and thorough investigation” into the weaponization of law and the promotion of press freedom.

The groups also called on the agency to repeal “repressive laws” such as the highly-assailed Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020, which the groups describe as one of the “policies that have been used to harass journalists and human rights defenders.”

“The prolonged detention of Cumpio, Domequil, and Abinguna, coupled with the broader issues of law weaponization and attacks on press freedom, highlight the need for immediate and decisive action from the DOJ,” the letter read.

“The DOJ can demonstrate the Philippines' genuine commitment to upholding human rights and freedom of expression by addressing these concerns,” it added. 

Cumpio, a broadcast journalist from Tacloban-based Eastern Vista, was among the progressives in the so-called “Tacloban 5″ arrested on Feb. 7, 2020.

They were arrested in the Eastern Vista staff house in Tacloban City after a string of raids in what the military claimed were alleged safe houses of communist groups. 

Cumpio and the human rights workers were slapped with possession of illegal firearms and explosives after the military allegedly found firearms in the staff house where they stayed.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council also accused them of terrorism financing for allegedly planning to use P557,360 seized in the staff-house raid to finance operations of the New People's Army.

These charges were described by human rights organizations as trumped-up charges. The 2023 Global Prison Census of the Committee to Protect Journalists also said that Cumpio is the only journalist in the Philippines who is imprisoned. 

Cumpio and the human rights workers were arrested during the height of the arrest of journalists and activists in 2020 which showed a pattern where the police first show a search warrant and allegedly find explosives afterward. 

RELATED: Court orders release of journalist a month after case junked | Manila court dismisses all charges vs Nasino, 2 others

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