MANILA, Philippines — Two police officers who allegedly harassed three members of the press in Leyte following a land dispute have been relieved of their posts, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Previously, the alleged harassment by the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) occurred on July 14 during an interview between San Juanico TV reporters Lito Bagunas, Noel Sianosa, Ted Tomas and land reform beneficiaries in Barangay Jones in Pastrana.
According to video released by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Sianosa was seen being pushed by police sergeant Rhea Baleos, who was allegedly preventing the three reporters from interviewing the beneficiaries. Minutes later, several shots of unknown origin were heard in the background.
VIDEO🎥: Sergeant Rhea Mae Baleos pushes Noel Sianosa while covering a land dispute in Barangay Jones, Pastrana, Leyte on July 14. 3 reporters survive shooting in Pastrana, Leyte pic.twitter.com/MxP1GZO03D
—NUJP (@nujp) July 15, 2023
Following the harassment incident, police said Saturday night that Baleos and her husband, Sergeant Ver Baleos, were relieved of duty.
They turned in firearms and will undergo an examination for gunpowder residue.
“The initial investigation revealed that the incident originated in a land dispute between Mr. Moises Empillo and Anecita Nogal with her husband, Mr. Virgilio Nogal. Mr. Empillo claimed to be the owner of the rice paddy co-located in that place, while Mr. and Mrs. Nogal also claimed to be the legitimate owners of it,” the PNP said in a statement.
“The said rice field was mortgaged to PSSg Baleos in 2017. During the dispute, PSSg Baleos called Pastrana MPS for help. There was a discussion between PSSg Baleos and Mrs. Anecita Nogal about the legality of owning said rice paddy. While they were arguing, Mr. Noel Sianosa was allegedly taking video footage capturing said argument, which caused PSSg Baleos to draw Mr. Sianosa’s attention, and the two had a shock,” he added.
The PNP revealed that the provincial investigation team began to investigate the incident.
“We are still investigating the incident and you can be sure that we will not be biased. If it is proven that our staff have indeed committed all the allegations, our Bureau will not tolerate such misconduct,” the PNP said.
“While we greatly recognize the role of media men in delivering unbiased and factual information to the general public, we also do everything possible to protect their rights and safety. We also welcome those who have witnessed the incident to provide us with further information to help further our investigation. For the immediate resolution of the case, ”he added.
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