When Bayan Muna members and Kontra Daya volunteers asked the police handing out the newspapers, the police said, “Wala kami alam d’yan, media yan. Basta pinamimigay lang namin.” (We don’t know anything about that, it’s media (sic). We just distribute these.)
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were seen distributing copies of an issue of a tabloid-type newspaper Pulis Serbis to the voters in front of three big primary schools in Sampaloc hosting polling precincts on election day. From its front to backpage, the PNP newsletter features articles and photos that slander and call for the death of progressive people’s organizations and partylists. The PNP described these organizations as “legal fronts” and “political parties supporting the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA).”
“This is infuriating and unfair,” said Teodora M. Tañola, 85. A member of Bayan Muna Partylist, she just finished casting her vote in another precinct when she was handed a copy by a policewoman in front of the Moises Salvador Elementary School. She immediately called the attention of volunteers of Kontra Daya, which has a tent near the three adjoining elementary schools of Moises Salvador, Gen. Licerio Geronimo and Trinidad Tecson.
At the back the newspaper shows a cartoon of tombstones of CPP funding chairman Jose Maria Sison, surrounded by tombstones of partylists and organizations such as Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan Partylist, Makabayan, ACT, Courage, Kadamay, KMU, Anakbayan, Katribu, Migrante, among others.
These newspapers were also reportedly already brought inside the polling precincts in the said schools before the attention of election watchdog Kontra Daya was called. Bayan Muna members protested the distribution of the paper to voters coming in droves to the schools.
Supporters of candidates, they said, were forbidden from distributing leaflets near the schools, yet, the policemen were freely slandering progressive groups and candidates right in front of the polling precincts. The three schools serve a combined voting population of 24,503.
A copy of the newspaper identifies Police General Oscar D. Albayalde as chairman of the Editorial board. Its editorial office listed the “Police Community Relations Group.” But when Bayan Muna members and Kontra Daya volunteers asked the police handing out the newspapers, the police said, “Wala kami alam d’yan, media yan. Basta pinamimigay lang namin.” (We don’t know anything about that, it’s media. We just distribute these.)
“Some of the policemen became angry at us and asked us why they are being stopped from distributing their newspaper,” a Bayan Muna member told Bulatlat.
Weni Marigondon of Bayan Muna said that in the 2013 and 2016 elections, Bayan Muna was also slandered but nobody handed out newspapers to voters like what happened today.
Asked why the policemen were distributing such “newspaper,” the police in the desk in front of Moises Salvador Elementary school told Bulatlat he knew nothing about it. A policeman accompanied Bulatlat to the neighboring police desk in front of the Geronimo Elementary School, where a certain Police Capt. Fuggan denied knowledge of the newspaper. He said they weren’t the source of the newspaper. He directed Bulatlat to the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
“Historically, Bayan Muna has a strong showing in elections here,” Tañola told Bulatlat.
Working as a vendor servicing students and teachers of these elementary schools, she said the sidewalk vendors know fully well who Bayan Muna is. “Their services for us and the people have been tried and tested.”
Rey Martinez, a PUP student and member of Concerned Students for Justice and Peace condemned the vilification being committed by the PNP. “They are trying to sink the progressive partylists which are all leading,” he said.
In the Kontra Daya national monitoring, volunteers also received reports of similar police distribution of PNP-produced tabloid newspaper in Montalban, Rizal, and in the Francisco Benitez Elementary School in Tondo.
A continuing stream of disinformation against the progressives
The volunteers of Kontra Daya directly observing the conduct of elections in the above three primary schools in Sampaloc noted other “unfair police actions” against them as they support the progressive partylists and candidates.
They pointed to their tent, which has the number 2 + 2 on its roof. Tents of other pollwatchers and volunteers lining the gates of the schools have their own number, but only Kontra Daya tent had been repeatedly visited by the police, and their volunteers questioned.
The police reportedly accused them of committing an election violation because No. 22 points to senatorial bet Neri Colmenares. The volunteers explained the tent number had not been their decision to make, and it’s not 22 but 2+2.
At some point, unlike the other pollwatchers’ tent, that of Bayan Muna had been surrounded by the police.
Even after the altercation, they noticed that the police had been dropping by their tent more frequently and all but ignoring the other tents.
“Almost all of the candidates were handing out leaflets, but only those from us were frequently under the police watch,” the women volunteers of Bayan Muna told Bulatlat.
A Bayan Muna member named Zorayda handed out leaflets to voters. She had positioned herself relatively far from the schools but the police told her off and took her pictures. On the other hand, the police ignored supporters of other candidates who were distributing leaflets close to or right in front of the polling precincts.
Even the volunteers wearing their orange shirts election “uniform” were questioned by the police, who ordered them to wear something else. But the supporters of Estrada who wore the same orange shirts minus the words “#Sulong” in front were allowed to roam the schools freely.
The result, even one of the most assertive Bayan Muna members, Marilou Ibañez, 65, admitted she had been forced to wear another shirt on top of her red shirt bearing the calls #NoToFraud, #NoToRedTagging to evade being at the crosshairs of the police. But, she proudly reverted back to her red #NoToFraud shirt as soon as she could.
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