Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Bribery to House members to pass BBL: Reporter stands ground on sources

Lawmaker backs down as reporter stands ground on sources



The reporter who broke the story on the alleged P 440-million bribe for lawmakers to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Christine Herrera. Inquirer File Photo/Marianne Bermudez
A lawmaker backed down on his threat to cite a reporter for contempt after the media worker stood her ground and refused to reveal the sources of a series of news articles exposing the alleged bribery to members of the House of Representatives to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr. withdrew his motion to cite Christine Herrera in contempt after the reporter delivered a statement that stressed the protection given to her by the law to stop anyone from forcing her to reveal her sources.
“I am entitled to invoke Republic Act 53 as amended by Republic Act 1477 also known as the Shield Law or Sotto Law to refuse to reveal the identities of my sources premediated upon the protection of the freedom of expression and aimed at promoting freedom of information to encourage intelligence discourse,” Herrera told lawmakers on Tuesday.
“When we break controversial stories, we put not only our name on the line but also our lives. In the Aquino administration, we have lost 32 journalists whose murders remained unsolved. Ours is a dangerous profession to practice these days,” Herrera said.
During the last hearing on June 9, Barzaga threatened Herrera with contempt charges when she refused to name the sources of her stories that claimed that fugitive Chinese national Wang Bo gave P440 million to pay off 292 lawmakers to favor the BBL.
“I stand by what I have written in my articles. They are based on credible sources and solid evidence. I (exerted) efforts to verify and corroborate the story before submitting for publication,” Herrera said.
Her reports said bags of cash were unloaded at the rear entrance of the House of Representatives and these were taken to the office of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
The report said the CCTV footage of the incident that supposedly occurred from Monday to Wednesday had been overwritten.
Herrera quoted US President Barack Obama about freedom of the press.
“‘A society who represses journalists ultimately represses the people.’ I brought out the basic principle which is that a free press is a foundation for a democracy. We rely on journalists to explain the actions if the government. If the government controls the journalist then it’s very difficult for citizens to hold government accountable,” Herrera said.
Herrera’s articles also claimed that Wang Bo paid the Bureau of Immigration (BI) P100 million to secure his release after the agency initially ordered his deportation.
The allegations of bribery came as Immigration Associate Commissioners Gilberto Repizo and Abdullah Mangotara blocked the deportation of Wang Bo, who was ordered deported by BI chief Siegfred Mison.
Repizo and Mangotara have denied any wrongdoing or of taking any bribe.
Wang Bo is reportedly wanted in China for embezzling $100 million and is suspected of opening casinos for transnational gambling. - Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Inquirer.net

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