News chopper denied airspace over rally

FEBRUARY 29, 2008
Posted March 5, 2008

ABS-CBN Television

An ABS-CBN helicopter seeking aerial views of a rally against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was prevented from approaching the area by an Air Transportation Office (ATO) notice declaring the area a no-fly zone for the three-hour duration of the protest, according to a local press freedom organization, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and local news reports.

The notice cited “security reasons” for the decision to seal the airspace over Manila’s Makati business district from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on February 29, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. ATO Executive Director Daniel Dimagiba told the Inquirer the unprecedented order was issued at the request of the Philippine National Police. Dimagiba elaborated on the security concerns by explaining that rally participants might fear surveillance from helicopters, the Inquirer reported.

The ABS-CBN network planned to document the size of the crowd from the air before they learned of the restriction a few hours before the rally’s scheduled start time, according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. Attendance figures for the rally were estimated at 15,000 by police and up to 75,000 by the rally’s organizers, The New York Times reported.

Coverage of previous rallies against Arroyo went unrestricted, news reports said. The demonstrators called for the president to step down in the wake of a series of corruption scandals they say have undermined her political credibility.