Sto. Tomas Sangguniang Bayan Prohibiting Media to Take Picture, Video During Their Session; ‘It’s Unconstitutional’

For many months now, the Sangguniang Bayan of the municipality of Sto. Tomas in Davao del Norte has been prohibiting mediamen to take photos and videos during their session every Monday morning.

However, SB Secretary Bienvenida Dimanay said “it’s a verbal internal policy of them”, referring to SB members including Vice Mayor Eric Estela.

Santo Tomas SB in session.

Further asked if she could produce a written form of that “verbal policy” like minutes of their meeting, she reiterated saying “it’s verbal policy.”

This reporter just started to take photos while they were in session Monday, and immediately a personnel with ID card bearing his family name Florenosos approached and said not to take picture during the sesssion, saying it is not allowed.

Right after the session, Florenosos was asked of the reason why it is prohibited to take picture, he replied there is an ordinance for it, thus sending this reporter to ask the SB secretary who was still packing up her things inside the session hall.

Asked on the ordinance, Dimanay said there was none and only a “verbal internal policy.”

A mediaman who appeared right after the session, Jorge Pangandoyon said that it is not only that, but the SB barred mediamen to cover their session.

“Dugay na na nila ginahimo” he complained over.

A media source recalled that the alleged prohibition for covering mediamen not to take picture or video came after a heated exchange of discourses between Councilors Joel Bayanay and Rene Landasan took place during their session late last year and a Tagum broadcaster Boy Conejos took a video using his cellphone what was happening.

Bayanay noticed the taking of the video and confronted Conejos not to take a video, said media source present at that time.

Conejos, in subsequent interview, confirmed the incident. He said the heated discourses between the two councilors centered about the problem about the town’s terminal where Bayanay had accordingly a stake. 

He still has the video he took in his cellphone. Dated Oct. 17, 2017, it showed Bayanay speaking at the rostrum.

Conejos said Bayanay approached him on visibly irate mood while the session was still goung on and told him that the video recording was not allowable.

Conejos stood pat, reasoning that he could not be stopped being a mediaman adding that even in Congress video recording was not stopped when Congressmen Barbers and Pichay almost came to blows amid altercation.

Meanwhile, Councilor Dario Romano, in separate interview, said he is not in favor to the idea that the media would be prohibited from covering their session, adding that “it’s you who report in public what the elected officials are doing.”

“Wa man pod mo nagsamok nga maka-disrupt sa session,” Romano said.

Panabo broadcaster Eric Alonzo, former law student, commented that the Sto. Tomas SB’s policy of prohibiting and barring media is “unconstitutional, a possible violation to the right to press freedom and to President Duterte’s Freedom of Information (FoI) order. It is possibly Ombud-sable.” ( Monforte)


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