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Rappler’s Pampanga stringer files complaint over surveillance, cyber harassment

Inday Espina-Varona

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Rappler’s Pampanga stringer files complaint over surveillance, cyber harassment

SURVEILLANCE. A man claiming to be from the military sends surveillance photos to Rappler Pampanga stringer Joann Manabat on May 1, 2023, and offers to help her get scoops in return for information.

Joann Manabat

After sending journalist Joann Manabat photos of her at work, a man claiming to be from the military offers scoops in exchange for friendship

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler’s Pampanga stringer Joann Manabat on Wednesday, May 10, filed a complaint with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Cybercrime group in Camp Julian Olivas, Pampanga, after she was surveilled during a Labor Day protest on May 1 and then contacted on Messenger by someone claiming to be with the military.

Manabat told Rappler that at around 10:50 pm on May 1, someone using the name Jero Haiden Tenorio sent three photos of her via Facebook Messenger. The photos were taken while Manabat was covering the protest rally.

The sender claimed to be from the military, and said he wanted to get to know Manabat and assist her in getting scoops in return for friendship.

The journalist said the photos showed her covering the Workers Alliance of Region III Labor Day rally near the roundabout at San Nicolas Public Market in Angeles City.

“I had no idea someone was taking photos of me, nor did I notice anyone wanting to approach me,” Manabat said.

“I talked to several people for interviews – active protesters, protesters resting at shaded areas, small town lottery stall owners, bystanders, but no one approached me for a small talk,” she added.

“I don’t remember giving my name to any of the people I [had] spoken with during that day for interviews,” Manabat said.

The journalist arrived at the venue earlier than the announced start of the rally. 

Since the protesters were not yet around, she stayed at a shaded corner outside a branch of a  fast-food restaurant.

She approached police near the Angeles City Police Station 1 outpost across the street from the restaurant, and introduced herself to Major Alfred Andal, asking about the scheduled protest. He confirmed that they were waiting for protesters to arrive.

No untoward incident happened until she received the message with the photos.

Manabat said the first photo was taken “while I was approaching bystanders across the rally area before I headed in the opposite direction, looking for business owners for an interview.” The second photo showed her talking to a couple of bystanders. The third photo showed her taking photos of the rally during the first part of the protest.

The person who took the third photo must have been standing outside the restaurant, she said.

“What bothered me was the possible proximity based on the first two photos sent, how he knew my name and found me on Facebook,” the journalist said.

The sender’s profile remains on Facebook but shows nothing except two images of animals.

Manabat went to the Angeles police on May 5 to report the incident, but was advised to go instead to the headquarters of the Anti-Cybercrime unit in Camp Olivas, San Fernando City.

ENDORSEMENT. Letter from the Angeles Police endorsing journalist Joann Manabat’s complaint to the Anti-Cybercrime Unit in Camp Olivas, San Fernando, Pampanga.

An acknowledgement report from Camp Olivas, signed by PSsgt Lowie Buan, said it had opened an investigation into the alleged violation of Article 287 of the Philippine Revised Penal Code or unjust vexation, in relation to section 6 of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law of 2012.

Section 6 of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law provides that penalties for crimes committed by use of digital means shall be one degree higher than that provided for by the Revised Penal Code. 

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has issued an alert on the incident. – Rappler.com

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