Statement on Mayor Treñas’s Threats to the Iloilo Press

Daily Guardian is concerned with Mayor Jerry Treñas’ recent threats against the press. This incident stems from our reporting on the investigation into the Iloilo Central Market demolition, a matter of significant public interest.

Irresponsible reporting involves fabricating stories, twisting words, and sensationalizing issues unfairly. However, our coverage, along with that of other media outlets, accurately reflected the statements made by Dr. Ivan Anthony Henares. Dr. Henares, speaking as the secretary general of the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines, raised concerns about the demolition during a public forum. The press reported his words faithfully, seeking comments from Mayor Treñas for a balanced perspective.

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.

The real issue lies in Dr. Henares’ statements, not in the press coverage. If Dr. Henares has backtracked under pressure, that is his issue to address. The media cannot be faulted for reporting accurately on his initial remarks.

The press must also not be scapegoated for the fallout between the mayor and his critics. We call on Mayor Treñas to respect the role of the media and to address the real issues at hand with honesty and transparency.

His outburst against the press sends a wrong message that public officials or people in power have the right to attack the media for what they deem as unfavorable reportage or commentary.

This will also have a chilling effect on ordinary Ilonggos who might air their sentiments, opinions and grievances against public officials and their conduct in office.

Reports by various groups like the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines have been alarmed with the rising cases of “lawfare” or the use the legal means to harass and intimidate journalists. We hope that this will not become a trend or standard practice at the Iloilo City Hall.

We stand by the Iloilo City Hall Press Corps members and their right to report on matters of public interest without fear of intimidation. The press plays a crucial role in holding public officials accountable, and any attempts to undermine this role through threats of legal action are unacceptable.

We urge our colleagues to remain vigilant and steadfast in our work as journalists. This episode highlights the need for transparency and accountability in government actions, especially those affecting our heritage and public spaces and resources.