Reporter Tina Panganiban-Perez called out for asking ‘dirty’ question to community organizer

GMA News journalist Tina Pnganiban-Perez
GMA News journalist Tina Pnganiban-Perez

Veteran television journalist Tina Panganiban-Perez is being criticized online for asking what many had perceived to be an unethical question during an interview with a community pantry organizer.

The GMA News broadcaster spoke with Ana Patricia Non in a virtual media briefing, where the reporter asked, “Just to set the record straight, so what there would be no doubts about you, do you really have links to a communist group until now, or have you ever had [in the past]? What is the basis for your red-tagging?”

Read: Quezon City community pantry shuts due to red-tagging

(“Just to set the record straight, para wala ng masyadong tanong tanong or duda sa iyo, meron ka nga bang links to [a] communist group until now or nagkaroon? Ano bang basis ng red-tagging sa iyo?)

Non have had to temporarily stop the operation of the community pantry she organized when several government supporters accused her of having communist links. Non bristled at Perez’s questioning and called the journalist out for it.

“I don’t have links to the Communist party, and I’m sorry, but that is such a dirty question. Because the last thing I have to explain to people is who I am because my intentions are clear. I want to set up the community pantry so that people can eat,” Non said.

From the perspective of some Filipinos, Perez’s question echoed the government narrative that food banks are being controlled by communist groups who are out to topple the Duterte administration. In the Philippines, red-tagging or accusing someone of having communist links is dangerous, and many activists have been killed for it.

Carlos Conde, a former journalist and a researcher for the Human Rights Watch, was one of those who didn’t like Perez’s questioning.

Read: High-ranking military warns actress Liza Soberano against joining feminist group

“Instead of asking people if they have communist links, journalists should ask red-taggers what, if anything, they can show for their billions of budget, or what do they think of the dozens of red-tagged activists who ended up murdered,” Conde said.

In a follow-up tweet, the human rights activist added, “Maybe I wasn’t clear. The reasons why it’s stupid of journalists to ask people if they’re communists are 1) communism is not a crime, and 2) it’s none of your damn business if they were.”

Journalist Nonoy Espina didn’t agree with Perez’s question, and said the media has no “right to demand that anyone set the record straight on totally false charges, especially if you have no knowledge of these in the first place.” He added that Non was correct, “the question was dirty and she owes no one, much less media, an explanation.”

Photojournalist Ezra Acayan said, “Anyone who thinks that @tinapperez ‘s question to AP Non asking if she was affiliated with communists was harmless should be reminded of the harm reporters inflicted by asking grieving mothers of the drug war questions like ‘Is your child an addict?'”

Journalism professor Danilo Arao suggested how reporters can do better. “Instead of asking something like ‘Are you a communist?,’ try asking something like ‘How does red-tagging affect you?’ The latter is reflective, the former is just simply idiotic,” he said.

In what appears to be a castigation of Perez, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines reminded reporters that they should have the “utmost sensitivity and respect to individuals, groups, and initiatives” which have been red-tagged by the Duterte government.

“As media practitioners, we should not be party or add credence to red-tagging campaigns that vilify human rights defenders, community organizers, and even fellow journalists, and linking them to the armed communist movement,” the organization said.

“The burden of proof should always lie on the accuser and hard questions on the evidence behind these accusations should be directed at the officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the police, and the military,” it added.

Meanwhile, Raffy Tima, one of Perez’s colleagues in GMA, defended her. He said that the question was an “elephant in the room” that “had to be asked.”

Prior to Perez’s questioning, Non had already rejected accusations of having communist links.

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