Iloilo City

Iloilo media group forgives Treñas, but voices concern for threatened journalists

Erwin Delilan

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Iloilo media group forgives Treñas, but voices concern for threatened journalists

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas gestures during an emergency Zoom meeting led by Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr, with Department of Energy, National Grid Corporation of the Philippines and Power distributor utilities and Cooperatives on continuing power outage in Western Visayas, on January 4, 2024.

Arnold Almacen/Iloilo City Mayor

Some local journalists frown upon the media group’s statement, saying it tried to downplay the incident, and the threat was real

BACOLOD, Philippines – A media group has accepted the apology of Iloilo Mayor Jerry Treñas due to his outburst during a May 20 news conference at city hall, but expressed concern for reporters who were affected by the incident.

In a four-page statement on Wednesday, May 22, the Iloilo City Hall Press Corps (ICHPC) said it has accepted Treñas’ apology on his unexpected outburst, saying “the unfortunate incident happened on Monday because of the exercise of our role as members of the Fourth Estate.”

During the controversial press conference, Treñas hurled invectives and threatened legal action against those reporting that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Philippine Commission was investigating the demolition. 

Treñas later apologized for his behavior, through a statement released by city hall, admitting that his reaction was uncalled for.

“I would like to apologize for my outburst this morning. This was uncalled for,” read Treñas’ statement.

Treñas lost his temper after reporters raised questions about the demolition of an 86-year-old art deco façade at the over century-old Iloilo City Public Market as part of a P3-billion market rehabilitation plan involving a public-private partnership with SM Prime Holdings Incorporated (SMPHI).

His reaction, directed at reporters, was widely criticized on social media, with many describing it as unprofessional and arrogant.

The ICHPC denied that there were attempts to sensationalize the story about the demolition or twisting facts, and that it was a case of irresponsible reporting.

“We never questioned the wisdom of the offices and persons behind, we only wanted the public to know if procedures are followed,” read part of the group’s statement.

The group added that the mayor’s unexpected outburst caused ICPHC members “mental anguish and nights of disturbed sleep as they fathom how things unfolded.”

“We just issued this statement not to justify anyone’s act, but to shed light and put context on what happened as we remain firm in our resolve to continue working as purveyor of truth while remaining as partner of the local government,” read part of the ICHPC statement.

Some local journalists, however, frowned upon the media group’s statement, saying it tried to downplay the incident.

Tara Yap, senior reporter at the Manila Bulletin, pointed out that the ICPHC used the words “perceived threat” in quotation marks in its May 22 statement.

“Claiming that what the mayor did was just a perceived threat against the media is sanitizing the reality of what happened,” Yap said on Thursday, May 23. “It was a real threat.”

She said video clips of the controversial press conference would show a furious Treñas berating and threatening reporters.

Yap also said she found it alarming that Treñas told the reporters that he was in a fighting mood, and that he enjoyed it because he was once a litigation lawyer.

“If Mayor Jerry Treñas is free to harass, intimidate, or bully members of the Iloilo media, he too can do it to the ordinary people in Iloilo City,” she said.

Alex Vidal, in column, “Treñas apology and itch for revenge,” for the Iloilo-based Daily Guardian on Thursday, wrote that journalists “hold him (the mayor) accountable for the ton of bricks he unloaded against the working press after he was unable to resist the impulse to strike back at his perceived tormentors.”

The College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) in Western Visayas has also criticized Treñas for his outburst and threats.

“Mayor Treñas’ reaction, including his threats to sue journalists, is not only unfortunate but also chilling. It is unbecoming of a public official who claims to champion freedom. While the mayor has apologized, his denial of the threats, despite evidence, casts doubt on the sincerity of his apology,” read part of the CEGP-Western Visayas statement.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Friday, May 24, criticized Treñas for threatening Iloilo City journalists.

“NUJP stands with Iloilo City colleagues and condemns the threats against them,” read part of the NUJP statement. “In the face of threats to our colleagues, the media community often has nobody but ourselves and the public we serve to turn to, but we urge the Presidential Task Force on Media Security to look into the threats made by Treñas as well as the effects they will have on the media workers.”

On Tuesday, May 21, Treñas filed a complaint for cyber libel against Nereo Lujan, a local historian and the provincial government’s information officer, because of his social media posts that criticized city hall’s decision to demolish the old art deco façade. –

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