The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Office of the Vice President on Tuesday condemned the arson attack on the printing plant of the Abante News Group that left two workers slightly injured Monday in Parañaque City.
An ocular inspection report from arson investigators Senior Fire Officer 1 Giovanni Corbes and Fire Officer 3 Gennie Huidem showed that “multiple fire origins were established in the fire scene.”
The report stated that “A prima facie evidence of arson was present since incendiary devices and pieces of evidence such as two plastic gallons with alleged gasoline were found in the fire scene during the conduct of investigation.”
The investigators also reported that the blaze destroyed about P50,000 worth of property.
“Further, pieces of evidence such as one transparent plastic gallon, one galloon 4 liters (red), two tin can ashes / debris, and one (1) long lighter (yellow) were submitted to the Arson Laboratory Service for laboratory examination,” they said.
Ibarra Gutierrez, spokesperson for Vice President Leni Robredo, in a statement said: “We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the recent attack by armed men on the Abante printing offices. This brazen assault cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged because a free press is essential in a free nation.
“A free press is essential in a free nation, and this attempt to intimidate and silence Abante, the leading Filipino language publication in our country, must be resisted by all freedom-loving Filipinos.”
“This attempt to intimidate and silence Abante, the leading Filipino language publication in our country, must be resisted by all freedom-loving Filipinos. We call on the authorities to act swiftly on this matter and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The authorities invited all witnesses and complainants to the Bureau of Fire Protection and to file a case of arson before the Parañaque City prosecutors office.
“We are thankful that no serious harm was done to both the workers and the facility, which Abante managing editor Fernando Jadulco said would continue operating normally,” the NUJP said in a statement.
“We say nothing can ever justify this clear attack on freedom of the press and of expression. That a newspaper facility in the National Capital Region can be attacked in such a brazen manner underscores how deeply mired in the culture of impunity our country and people have become,” the group added.
The NUJP said the persons behind the attack and whoever carried it out obviously believed they stood little chance of being caught, much less punished.
“After all, so many crimes and human rights abuses remain unsolved, the perpetrators free to continue sowing mayhem. We challenge our law enforcement agencies to prove us wrong and begin chipping away at the culture of impunity by swiftly getting the perpetrators of this attack and successfully prosecuting them,” it stated.
The NUJP also said “We stand in support of our colleagues in the Abante News Group even as we are confident that this incident will not cow them and the community of independent Filipino journalists, who remain united in defending our rights and liberties and resisting all attempts to silence us.”
Incident report showed that the fire struck the single-storey Fortunata Building 1 at the Vitalez Compound in Barangay San Isidro owned and occupied by Prage Management, and used as the printing plant of daily tabloids Abante and Tonite.
Lady security guard Marivic Furaganan, 44, told investigators that they were receiving delivery printing materials when a group of unidentified masked armed men and wearing helmets appeared.
She said the masked men pointed guns at them and shouted “dapa! dapa! nasaan ang baril mo? She replied” Wala po akong baril.”
Furaganan followed the order and lay face down on the floor. She saw the attackers holding a gallon filled with gasoline and poured it into several files of newspapers inside the production area and setting a fire using long lighters.