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Congress quiz sought over Pangasinan journo

Party List Representative Rowena Niña O. Taduran of the Anti-Crime and Terrorism Community Involvement and Support Partylist (ACT-CIS) recently filed a resolution seeking congressional investigation on the reported modus operandi of Pangasinan-based newsman Jaime Aquino which involved the filing of fake criminal complaints that has already victimized several people including government officials.

In House Resolution No. 2521, Representative Taduran called on “the appropriate committee to investigate aid of legislation on the practice of filing false criminal complaints” pursuant to the letter dated March 7, 2022 from Undersecretary Jose Joel M. Sy Egco, Executive Director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS)” who exposed the reported criminal activities of Aquino.

As stated in Taduran’s resolution, “USec. Egco narrated that a certain Jaime Aquino, said to be the publisher of the Northern Star (supposedly a local newspaper) and former correspondent for The Manila Times, is involved in the filing of baseless criminal complaints against particular individuals. Allegedly, the filings are maliciously reported to the media by Mr. Aquino for purposes of extorting money from unsuspecting victims. This scheme is known in media circles as “AC-DC” or “Attack and Collect, Defend and Collect”, and that “Mr. Aquino has allegedly amassed huge assets as a result of “AC-DC.”

Taduran stated that “among the victims of Mr. Aquino is Sec. Raul Lambino, Presidential Adviser for Northern Luzon and the current Administrator and Chief Executive Officer of Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA). Mr. Aquino and his cohorts reportedly used a fake complainant and falsely charged Sec. Lambino with ten counts of rape of a minor.”

Taduran also cited the case of another alleged victim of Mr. Aquino in the person of Arkie Manuel Yulde, “a mayoral candidate of Lopez, Quezon Province. Apparently, as a result of fabricated complaints about the rape of a minor, Mr. Yulde spent several months in jail before being freed when the cases were dismissed for lack of merit.”

According to Taduran, these incidents became the rationale in the filing of the resolution calling for a legislative inquiry, “with the end in view of criminalizing the act of filing bogus criminal complaints.”

Taduran explained that there is no “remedy proportionate to the harm/damage caused to … victims of malicious and fabricated criminal complaints” in our present laws, as exemplified by the activities of Mr. Aquino, hence the need for a congressional investigation in aid of legislation in order to stop and prevent such deeds.

“Mr. Aquino should not be allowed to continue because these promote the wrong use of press freedom and pose a threat to innocent individuals. While press freedom is protected by the Constitution, the same is not unbridled and may not be used for unlawful, illegal or immoral ends,” the resolution read.

Egco, as head of PTFoMS, the country’s lead agency mandated to protect journalists from threats and violence, said that he welcomes the resolution filed by Rep. Taduran.

What happened to Sec. Lambino and Councilor Yulde is a “travesty of justice“ and “put into the spotlight a huge loophole in our justice system that needs to be corrected legislatively.”

Aquino has been expelled by the National Press Club of the Philippines and banned for life for gross violation of the Journalist Code of Ethics. He has recently been arrested by operatives from the National Bureau of Investigation for a standing warrant for libel and unlawful possession of unlicensed firearms and explosives.

“We owe it to the Filipino people to put a stop to the perpetrators of this criminal enterprise as they have abused our much-cherished press freedom to advance their nefarious agenda, putting innocent people behind bars and deliberately endangering the lives of legitimate media workers in the process,” Egco said.

The Philippines is believed to be the first country in the world to establish a government body devoted exclusively to media security. On October 11, 2016, President Duterte created PTFoMS by virtue of Administrative Order No. 1 to establish an inter-agency task force with the goal of protecting the life, liberty and security of media workers. Task forces similar to PTFoMS have now been set up by other countries in the world to protect journalists, according to the 2021-2022 “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development Global Report” released recently by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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