Philippine journalist Joann Manabat was threatened by armed gunmen on March 12 while covering a land dispute in Anunas village, Angeles City. (Screenshot: Rapper/YouTube)
Philippine journalist Joann Manabat and another journalist were threatened by armed gunmen on March 12, 2024, while covering a land dispute in Anunas village, Angeles City. (Screenshot: Rappler/YouTube)

Armed men harass, threaten to shoot two reporters covering land dispute in Philippines

Bangkok, March 13, 2024—Philippine authorities must swiftly identify and prosecute those behind the shooting threats and harassment against Rappler reporter Joann Manabat and K5 News FM Olongapo reporter Rowena Quejada, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

On March 12, armed men dressed in red and white shirts with Clarkhills Properties Corporation verbally barred Manabat and Quejada from entering an area under land dispute in Anunas village, Angeles City, in the northwest Pampanga province, according to multiple news reports.

The men later grabbed Manabat and Quejada’s belongings and threatened to shoot the journalists when they saw them filming a dispute between local residents and Clarkhills’ armed demolition team, according to reports.

Several demolitions have occurred in the disputed 73-hectare area, sparking violent encounters, Rappler reported. Manabat left the site and took refuge in a nearby house after the men made the shooting threat, according to a Rappler report.

Quejada was accosted, questioned, and held at gunpoint by the men before also taking refuge in a nearby home, according to news reports and a statement on the incident released by Angeles City Mayor Carmelo Lazatin Jr. Additionally, she was temporarily reported missing, reports said.

“Filipino authorities should leave no stone unturned in identifying and prosecuting those responsible for the harassment and shooting threat made against reporters Joann Manabat and Rowena Quejada,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Senior Southeast Asia Representative. “This type of unchecked thuggery is precisely what makes the Philippines such a perilous place to be a reporter. It should stop under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s democratic rule.”

Several people suffered gunshot wounds in Tuesday’s melee and were taken to the local Rafael Lazatin Memorial Medical Center for treatment, news reports said. Both reporters safely left the area after the violence subsided, the reports said.

The Angeles City Police Department and Clarkhills Properties did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.

The local Commission on Human Rights indicated it would conduct a probe into the threats against Manabat and Quejada, news reports said.