Local tabloid Abante Tonite’s recent hard-hitting headlines could be the reason for an attack on its printing house in Parañaque City, according to a group.
Four unidentified men, who were wearing hoods and carrying guns, reportedly stormed the Abante News Group’s printing plant at Barangay San Isidro in Parañaque City between 1 and 2 a.m.
A female security guard on duty was held at gunpoint as they poured gasoline and set the printing machines and supplies on fire.
The fire was put out by the Parañaque Fire Station and investigators found no injuries or fatalities. However, the property damage comprising several burnt printing equipment was estimated to be worth P50,000.
The news group is home to long-running tabloids Abante and Abante Tonite.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas noted on Twitter that the arson incident might’ve been a threat for its recent reports on controversial affairs such as the rice tariff law and the pardon of inmates convicted of heinous crimes.
KMP added screenshots of Abante’s previous front page headlines.
“Abante is among the country’s pioneer and leading Tagalog tabloids. It is read by the general public, particularly laborers and jeepney drivers,” it said on September 9.
LOOK. Abante's recent headlines. Their Paranaque printing plant was torched by armed, masked men early this morning. The attack is believed to be the first of it's kind against a mainstream news outfit. pic.twitter.com/Kmzhi8VZB5
— StopKillingFarmers (@kmp_phl) September 9, 2019
This was the same view of Abante Tonite managing editor Fernando Jadulco who shared that this was the first attack the publishing house experienced since 1987.
“The management and staff of Abante and Tonite condemn this dastardly attack, the first violent act against our group and its facilities since 1987. We will not be cowed by this attempt to strike fear into our reporters, editors and staff. Our commitment to hard-hitting journalism remains unshaken,” Jadulco said in a statement.
Abante, the parent company, was founded by national artist Virgilo Almario in 1987 through the printing house he owned Banahaw Publishing Corporation.
In 1988, Amado Macasaet bought Abante from Almario. The Macasaet family runs the Monica Publishing Corporation that currently is the tabloid’s main publisher.
Abante Tonite, the evening edition of Abante, started releasing issues in 1989. Abante’s online website, meanwhile, was launched in 2006.
Another assault on press freedom
While there’s no certainty on the motive and perpetrators yet, several groups condemned what happened to the media outfit.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said the event was a “clear attack” on freedom of the press and expression.
“Whoever ordered this attack and whoever carried it out obviously believe they stand 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,” the organization said.
“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 added.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines, meanwhile, linked this with the government’s red-tagging of institutions who are critical of the policies of the administration.
“Ang Abante, bilang isa sa mga nangungunang pahayagan sa bansa, ang isa ngayon sa mga ninanais na patahimikin. Kaliwa’t kanan din ang mga pag-atake tulad ng red-tagging, intimidasyon, pananakot, at maging pagsunog sa mga kagamitan ng pahayagan para tuluyang busalan ang demokrasya sa bansa,” the guild said.
[OPISYAL NA PAHAYAG NG CEGP HINGGIL SA NANGYARING PAGSUNOG SA PLANTA NG ABANTE]Mariing kinukundena ng College Editors…
The Philippines ranked 133th, which was six points lower than the ranking in 2017, among the countries whose journalists enjoy autonomy when it comes to reporting stories, according to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
Meanwhile the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Alliance reported a total of 128 cases of attacks and threats against the Philippine press during President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.