March 16, 2023

Last January 23, Tacloban-based community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio celebrated her 24th birthday together with the first court hearing for the added trumped-up charge of terrorist financing filed last year against her and church worker Mariel Domequil by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). The added charge is connected to the P557,360 reportedly found in their possession during the simultaneous raids in Tacloban, Leyte last February 7, 2020. However, according to Cumpio, the cash was intended for her radio program and her current collaborative humanitarian project called, “Stand with Samar.”

Cumpio was the Executive Director of Eastern Vista, an alternative media outfit in Eastern Visayas and the anchor of the bloc time radio program “Lingganay han Kamatuoran”. “As as a community journalist and radio anchor, Frenchie covered and gave critical analysis to the stories of the struggling people of Eastern Visayas,” said Altermidya Network. The group added that Cumpio faced incessant red-tagging and had documented incidents of harassment and surveillance from the state forces.

Without prompt notice to Cumpio, Domequil, and their legal counsel, the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 18 granted the civil forfeiture case in favor of the government in December last year. Cumpio and Domequil, however, asked the Manila Court to reconsider its earlier decision and allow them to present evidence against the terror financing charge.

The International Association of Women in Radio and Television Philippines (IAWRT Philippines) expressed its concern over the Manila court’s decision of denying Cumpio’s “right to present evidence and prove the utter falsehoods against her.”

It can be noted that during the February 2020 raids, Cumpio and Domequil together with three other Tacloban-based activists were arrested and are currently facing trumped-up charge of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

In time for Cumpio’s first court hearing last January 23, journalists led by Altermidya Network staged a protest action in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to amplify the call to release Cumpio.

“We at Altermidya Network call on the courts both in Manila and Tacloban to see the light of truth and give justice to the case of Frenchie, Mariel, and the rest of the ‘Tacloban 5.’,” said Altermidya Network. “Today, we continue to call—and wish on Frenchie’s birthday—that the charges against her will finally be dropped,” the group ended.//


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