Posts

Media outfits file complaints vs state agents over red-tagging, seizure of news magazine

By EMILY VITAL/Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Alternative media outfits filed before the Commission on Human Rights complaints against government officials and state security agents for violating their “fundamental right to press freedom and expression, and the right to information of the audiences they serve.”

Altermidya, the national network of alternative media outfits, Pinoy Weekly, Kodao Productions and Bulatlat filed separate complaints against members of the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and Philippine National Police who have threatened and tagged them as terrorists and communist-fronts.

One of the complaints is the recent confiscation by police in Pandi, Bulacan of thousands of copies of the news magazine Pinoy Weekly, which they maliciously tagged “subversive documents.”

The media outfits also cited that the vicious red baiting done by Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. and Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and their suspected agents has put their members’ safety and security at risk.

Bulatlat associate editor Danilo Arao filed a separate complaint as his name was included in a fake “Oust Duterte” matrix last year.

Kenneth Roland Guda, editor in chief of Pinoy Weekly, condemned the PNP Region 3 police for tagging the news magazine as “terrorist-related material.” The label, he said, may be used to file trumped-up charges of inciting to commit terrorism against them.

Under the Duterte administration, attacks on alternative media have been persistent. Altermidya documented one case of frustrated murder, eight cases of arrest and detention, 28 cases of threat and intimidation, which include surveillance, two cases of physical injuries, and six cases of cyber-attacks against its member-media outfits.

One of its members, Frenchie Mae Cumpio, is still detained in Tacloban for fabricated charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) expressed its support to Altermidya.

NUJP said that while Duterte has never directly attacked the alternative media, “those in government, particularly state security, have taken the presidential wrath against the free press as license to go after those who shine the light of truth on the inconvenient truths of Philippine society.”

“It is for this shared history of struggling for press freedom and for the invaluable work they do that we are proud to have our colleagues from Altermidya alongside us in the continuing struggle to resist those who would seek to silence open discourse in our society,” NUJP said.

The complaints were received by Ronnie Rosero and Rommel Tinga of CHR Investigative Division. #

Reporting the people’s demands is not a crime

Altermidya.net

Information is of utmost importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reporting the people’s grievances and demands is the solemn duty of the media; it is not a crime.

The Guimba municipal council’s Sangguniang Bayan Resolution No. 52 s.2020 last May 11 empowered the mayor of the Nueva Ecija town to file criminal charges against radio network Radyo Natin Guimba (RNG) for alleged violations of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020 (Republic Act 11469) by reporting the complaints of residents over the implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

Prior to the resolution, RNG reported that a municipal councilor and son of the incumbent mayor confiscated RNG field reporter Lina Villaflor’s media identification cards issued by the Presidential Communications and Operations Office.

Earlier, on April 22, the mayor had written the station requesting a copy of the radio broadcast aired that day, stating that the “false and malicious” statements made by the commentator could be a basis for his legal action against the station.

This is a form of censorship meant to intimidate the media into either silence or reporting eventually and issues in a manner acceptable to local government officials.

Subsequent direct attacks against the station have been reported, among them the barring of RNG reporters from covering the sessions of the Guimba Sangguniang Bayan. On May 19, the local police again barred an RNG reporter from covering the distribution of rice seeds to farmers.

All these are in violation of press freedom, and were apparently in response to RNG’s reports on the problematic implementation by the Guimba local government of the SAP.

RNG reported that several residents had trooped to their station to air complaints on the “selective” manner in which the cash aid is being distributed—that the municipality and its barangay officials were prioritizing rich farmers over small tillers.

RNG also reported that the local police have prevented them from taking photos and videos of people who trooped to the municipal hall to complain about the SAP implementation.

As much as it is the constitutional right of the people to air their grievances, it is also the constitutional right – and the primordial duty – of the press to report on these issues.

Local government executives should keep in mind that that the current national emergency does not empower officials to silence dissent and curtail press freedom, both of which are essential to a functional democracy in which elected officials are duty-bound to defend the Constitution.

Joint statement: Stand with ABS-CBN, Defend Free Expression

Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) issued a statement Monday night claiming that “the ABS-CBN issue is about CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines] propaganda, so it falls under NTF ELCAC’s mandate.”

The statement came after the brouhaha ignited by the recent crossposting in several official government social media accounts of false information about the ABS-CBN issue.

Despite the fact that the NTF ELCAC got burned by the Palace when Communications Sec. Martin Andanar admitted that the cross-posting of NTF ELCAC’s infographics on ABS-CBN did not undergo the “usual vetting procedures,” Parlade persisted in linking the ABS-CBN issue to the CPP.

Under different circumstances, we could have dismissed Parlade’s red-baiting statement. But the reality is that journalists are being harassed, arrested, and killed under the pretext of counter-insurgency.

In a futile attempt to blindside the alternative media, Parlade directly mentioned the Altermidya Network and its members including Bulatlat, Kodao, Tudla, Kilab, Northern Dispatch, and even the formations National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Union of Journalists of the Philippines (UJP), and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, labeling all these groups as “creations of the CPP.” The general also labeled veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona as a “long-time cohort” of the CPP and dared her to “expose herself some more.”

As we have said, time and again, the fight for the ABS-CBN franchise renewal is a fight for free expression and a fight for all. But Parlade is instead red-tagging virtually everyone and anyone who supports the call for the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise.

There is nothing new in this attack. Keen observers of the increasingly deteriorating state of press freedom in the country were not surprised. In the context of the Duterte administration’s weaponizing the public health emergency to further its goal of controlling information and public opinion, Parlade’s use of the ABS-CBN issue is just one more demonstration of its determination to silence dissent and free expression.

At a time when millions are standing up and speaking out about the abuses of the Duterte administration, state agents respond with a patently unconstitutional crackdown on the media sector.

Parlade’s empty accusations should not deter the media from reporting the truth. Rather they should continue to monitor and hold government to account despite its concerted efforts to silence them.

Stand with ABS-CBN!  Defend press freedom and free expression!

SIGNATORIES

Altermidya Network
Bulatlat
Kilab Multimedia
Kodao Productions
Northern Dispatch
Tudla Productions
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
College Editors Guild of the Philippines
Union of Journalists of the Philippines-UP

Philippine Press Institute
International Association of Women in Radio & Television (IAWRT) Philippines
UP Journalism Department
Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines (PCP)
Let’s Organize for Democracy & Integrity – LODI
Concerned Artists of the Philippines
NUJP-NCR
Manila Today
Pinoy Weekly
PinoyMedia Center
UP Solidaridad
CEGP- Bicol, CEGP-Cagayan, CEGP-Cavite, CEGP-Cebu, CEGP-Central Luzon, CEGP-Cordillera, CEGP- Davao, CEGP-Ilocos, CEGP-Laguna, CEGP-Metro Manila, CEGP-Panay, CEGP-Southern Tagalog

Individuals

Inday Espina-Varona
Prof. Luis V. Teodoro
Ramon R. Tuazon
Therese S. Torres
Ma. Imelda Samson

Campus publications

Philippine Collegian
Manila Collegian
UPLB Perspective
UP Bagiuio Outcrop
UP Cebu Tug-ani
UP Mindanao Himati
Tinig ng Plaridel
Sinag (UP CSSP)
Kalasag (UP CAL)
Pagbutlak (UPV CAS)
UP Scientia (UP CS)
The Accounts (UPV College of Management)
NCPAG-Umalohokan
Alyansa ng Kabataang Mamamahayag ng PUP
CLSU Collegian
Fiat Lux
Himati-UP Mindanao
Iskolarium-PUP Sta. Maria Bulacan Campus
RedWire – University of the East
The Current – CMU
PUP BiblioFlix
The Angelite – Holy Angel University
The Catalyst PUP
The Chronicler – PUP Taguig
The College Chronicles –  Meycauayan College
The Lycean Pioneer-LPU Manila SHS
The Red Chronicles – San Beda College Alabang School of Law
The Geyser – Isabela State University Cabagan
The CSU Promethean – Cagayan State University Carig
The Scribes – PUP City of Meycauayan
The Searcher – PUP Sto. Tomas
The Work – Tarlac State University
TomasinoWeb – University of Santo Tomas

We will not be cowed nor silenced

Today, we take pride in announcing that we have earned a position among the online media outfits targeted for shutdown for reporting critically and siding with the truth. Our digital security partner confirmed on April 28 that www.nordis.net, the web-based platform of Northern Dispatch, is the subject of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

So intense is the attack that even after our web host provider, Host Color, removed the resource limit of our account, our site failed to accommodate the traffic. The millions of requests that flooded the site overloaded and crashed the server. To date, our website has been down for two days. Before this, access has been intermittent since April 17.

This latest attack against Northern Dispatch, while highly condemnable, also means that we are performing our job well. We live up to our principle and tradition of amplifying the voice of the poor and marginalized. By doing so, we made enemies of dark forces that spread lies and narratives against the poor and their struggles.

It is important to note that this cyber-assault came amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a period when critical reporting on the actual situation is urgent and essential. When people need to know how the government is responding to the health crisis and the severe socio-economic problems it spawned. Our foes initiated the attack at a time when rights protected under the Constitution are brazenly violated on unprecedented scales under the pretext of a public health emergency.

The attack came after months of intensified red-tagging of our outfit and staff by the military and its army of online trolls and minions. Since last year, the vilification and intimidation of our correspondents from Cagayan Valley (Deo Montesclaros) and Ilocos (Paola Espiritu) by state agents intensified. Also last year, suspected military assets shot and critically wounded Brandon Lee, our provincial correspondent from Ifugao. Last January, the Baguio City Police also tagged our Managing Editor Sherwin De Vera as a Communist Front Organization personality.

Just this April, online trolls circulated images on Facebook tagging Northern Dispatch as the propaganda arm of the New People’s Army. The same troll accounts posted photos of De Vera and Espiritu on the same online platform, accusing them as recruiters for the communist rebels.

The DDoS attack may not be as deadly as those that came before, but the message is the same, loud and clear – they want to silence the critical media. Those who benefit from this exploitative and repressive status quo want our stories to stop.

As we face the challenge of reporting amid this pandemic, the brutal attack against our ranks and this high-tech battering against our information portal, we send the following message:

To our readers, fear not. Our allies in the fight for freedom of the press and expression are helping us to bring our website back. In case this battle drags on, don’t despair. Our commitment remains. We will continue to bring you information and critical insights on issues and events in Northern Luzon in other ways.

To the people, especially the poor and oppressed, rest assured that we will uphold our task to amplify your plight and struggles.

To our colleagues in the media, join us, not only to keep the line taut but also to fight back and move forward.

To the enemies of press freedom and the people’s right to know, threaten us all you want, but we will not be cowed nor silenced. Payt latta! #

STATEMENT: Arrest of relief volunteers is also an attack on free expression

The rabid state forces are at it again: just this weekend, Bulacan police apprehended six volunteers of Tulong Anakpawis-Sagip Kanayunan, along with former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, who were on the way to a relief drive in Norzagaray, Bulacan. The manner that the police presented the circumstances of the arrest to the public also had a not-so-subtle message: publishing and distributing materials that are critical of government could now land people in jail.

Based on social media posts made by official accounts of the military and the police, one of the bases for these charges were the copies of Pinoy Weekly, a founding member of Altermidya Network and a multi-awarded alternative newspaper, which were seized from the relief volunteers and misrepresented as “anti-government propaganda materials” as the newspaper bore stories about how the hashtag #OustDuterte trended on Twitter even before the onset of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

To bluntly portray this article in Pinoy Weekly as basis for filing sedition charges is tantamount to haphazard violation of the constitutionally-protected freedom of the press and expression. Altermidya Network unequivocally denounces this move as sheer abuse of power. We ask, why are government forces targeting volunteers undertaking COVID-19 relief efforts? And how problematic is it to use credible publications like Pinoy Weekly to substantiate trumped-up charges?

More press freedom violations have been recorded in past weeks. Northern Dispatch (Nordis) correspondents Paola Espiritu and Sherwin De Vera have been red-tagged by troll accounts, branding them as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The same is the case with Pokus-Gitnang Luzon correspondent Pia Montalban. Other freedom of expression violations have been recorded, even against common citizens who merely posted critical messages on social media.

The recent spate of red-tagging and brazen use of authority against the alternative media and the people’s growing voice of dissent speak volumes of how the Duterte administration – and its emboldened security forces – are facing the COVID-19 pandemic not only with apparent incompetence, but also under a self-serving, and despotic brand of governance.

Many experts have pointed out how misguided the Duterte administration’s response is as regards the public health emergency. Instead of offering swift, clear-cut, responsive medical solutions, the state has invariably ramped up its militarist moves. Instead of flattening the curve of the pandemic, the administration’s state forces are bulldozing our fundamental rights.

But the public will not back down and quietly accept this situation. The alternative media is united with the Filipino people in keeping our guards high, ever vigilant on the creeping fascism that the Duterte administration is espousing to paint over its gross incompetence in facing this crisis.

We may be living in abnormal times. Yet we must continue unwaveringly asserting our rights and the shrinking space for public opinion. We cannot allow another creeping pandemic – the affliction of a mounting autocracy – to spread unabated.

‘Why is the government picking fights at the UN?’ PH rights defenders ask

GENEVA, Switzerland—A group of Filipino rights defenders here criticized the approach being taken by the Philippine government to the ongoing 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council they said “consistently challenges recommendations made by UN experts.”

The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) delegation said that in its two oral interventions this week, the government challenged the report of both UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ní Aoláin and UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst “in a rather impertinent tone.”

“We are amused and amazed with the way the Philippine government is comporting itself in this arena of international dialogue and diplomacy by directly challenging not just the reports but the Special Rapporteurs themselves,” EcuVoice delegation co- head Cristina Palabay said.

“Madam Special Rapporteur, you have addressed in your report the need for due diligence policies within the UN system to ensure that practices on countering terrorism and extremism are compliant with international human rights law. However, do you also see the need for a similar due diligence review by the UN and international organizations to ensure that funding support are not channelled by organizations towards actors professing terrorism?” the government Mission said.

The government also challenged some of the concerns raised by Aoláin by saying her suggestions “merit a more serious thought and debate, to ask in particular, if these concerns can hold their weight against realities on the ground.”

Aoláin in her report concluded that many violent extremism prevention programmes worldwide are directly contributing to human rights violations and may even foster radicalization instead of preventing it.

Aoláin also encouraged the entire UN to review its entire counter-terrorism architecture to better protect human rights and the rule of law when they support and member countries’ programmes.

“But look at how the government acts so defensively at well-intentioned reports that it reacts so vociferously, violently even, to general recommendations that are not particularly directed at the Philippines. Such defensiveness often betrays guilt,” EcuVoice head Atty. Edre Olalia said.

Earlier last Wednesday, the government also challenged UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst’s report by telling him to investigate human rights defenders instead, EcuVoice said.

EcuVoice said Presidential Communications Operations Office secretary Martin Andanar set the tone last week for the government’s stance at the ongoing sessions by trying to mislead the international community with his “ludicrous if only it is not perilous” spins and slants on press freedom.

“Because the entire world now sees the many thousands of dead bodies on Philippine streets killed by the so-called war against illegal drugs and disapproves official hate speech and reprisals against critics and dissenters, it is apparent that the Duterte administration has chosen that the best defense is an offense in the UN,” Olalia said.

EcuVoice spearheaded the submission of several reports of human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government to the 43rd UNHRC Regular Session in this city in accordance with the Iceland-led resolution of July 2019 calling for investigations in the Philippines.

Commission on Human Rights chairperson Chito Gascon is also expected to attend the sessions here next week and to file his agency’s report on the state of human rights in the past 44 months of the Duterte administration. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[Disclosure: Aside from covering the regular session, the reporter, himself a victim of red-tagging, intended to present an oral intervention as an alternative and human rights journalist.]

TIMELINE of the struggle for ABS CBN

The Senate conducted a hearing on the ABS-CBN issue last Monday, February 24, obviously in reaction to the series of mass actions calling for the network’s franchise renewal. The Senate Committee on Public Services, chaired by Senator Grace Poe, again showed the Upper House’s more independent character than the House of Representatives that still refuses to schedule hearing on the 11 bills pending before its Committee on Legislative Franchises. And while Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano called the Senate hearing “a meaningless and brown-nosing spectacle,” even his fellow administration allies were compelled to attend and expressed support for ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal at the end of the hearing. Resource persons from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Securities and Exchange Commission, National Telecommunications Commission and the Department of Justice also clarified that ABS-CBN did not violate laws that warrant its closure.

The giant media network may now heave a sigh of relief, its position and future clearer than when the issue blew up middle of January.

Here is a timeline of how organizations have been helping the network weather its worst storm since it was sequestered during Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law:

December 3, 2019

– President Rodrigo Duterte threatend he will “see to it that you’re (ABS CBN) out.”

December 30, 2019

– Duterte tells ABS-CBN management in a speech to just sell the company.

January 16, 2020

-The Manila Times reports that Solicitor General Jose Calida plans to file a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court questioning ABS CBN’s franchise.

January 17, 2020

-The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) holds a Black Friday protest at the Boy Scout Monument in Quezon City to denounce the threat. They People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya), Defend Jobs Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), members of the ABS CBN Rank and File Employees Union (RFEU), the Photojournalists Center of the Philippines (PEP), Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), International Association of Women in Radio and Television-Philippine Chapter, Rappler, and progressive organizations under Bagong Alyansang Makabayan join the action. The entire Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives attend. Several ABS CBN reporters participate.

January 18, 2020

-The NUJP launches its one million signature campaign on the online petition platform change.org. Within 24 hours, 100 thousand signatures were gathered as several ABS CBN artists ask their fans for support.

January 24, 2020

-The NUJP and the ABS CBN-RFEU hold a “silent protest” at the network’s Sgt. Esguerra gate. Several network reporters join. Participants light candles and distribute petition forms. Defend Jobs Philippines, Altermidya and CEGP attend.

January 31, 2020

-The NUJP, PCP members, Altermidya and several ABS CBN fans gather at the Boy Scout Monument and later proceed to one of the network’s Mother Ignacia Avenue gates to conduct its third Black Friday protest. CEGP, CAP and Defend Jobs Philippines join.

February 7, 2020

-The NUJP holds its fourth Black Friday protest at the employee’s Mother Ignacia gate and gather hundreds of signatures from employees. Meanwhile, the NUJP and other employees gather petitions inside the network since January 18. Altermidya and the ABS CBN-RFEU attend the rainy fourth Black Friday.

February 10, 2020

-Calida files quo warranto petition at the Supreme Court. NUJP and Altermidya denounce the solicitor general’s action, as well as his harassment of ABS CBN reporter Mark Navallo. NUJP calls for a quick reaction protest action at the Boy Scout Monument. Altermidya, ABS CBN RFEU, CEGP, PCP, Rappler, Kadamay, Defend Jobs Philippines and other progressive organizations under Bayan attend.

February 11-14, 2020

-Media groups, schools and other organizations issue statements issue statements supporting ABS CBN and denouncing threats against the network. Several newspapers publish editorials supportive of the embattled company. ABS CBN report interviews of fans loyal to the network. ABS CBN management issues statement. Several NUJP chapters hold their own protest actions but complain of surveillance by unidentified men who take their pictures even after their activities.

February 12, 2020

-Committee on Legislative Franchises vice chairperson Isabela 1st District Representative Antonio Albano admits pressure from both the Duterte administration and ABS CBN supporters.

February 14, 2020

-NUJP and ABS CBN employees jointly organize the fifth protest action named “Red Friday Protest” as the day fell on Valentine’s Day. Hundreds of network officials and workers participate. Reporters prepare food for the increasing number of supporters. PCP conduct interactive activities during protest. CAP, LODI (Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity) Kilusang Mayo Uno, Gabriela, Makabayan, and other labor federations attend.

February 19, 2020

-NUJP officers submit to the House of Representatives copies of 200 thousand signatures to the authors of the 11 bills for ABS CBN franchise renewal as well as to the Committee of Legislative Franchises secretariat and chairperson Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Alvarez. Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Ysagani Zarate receives the copies in behalf of his fellow authors.

Photograb of Altermidya video of the February 21 “White Friday” protest.

February 21, 2020

-Thousands of ABS CBN employees light candles and form a human chain around the network compound in an unprecedented mass action in defense of a media organization. Thousands more supporters from other organizations join earlier supporters in a two-hour program in front of the network’s broadcasting center. NUJP, CAP and ABS CBN employees jointly conduct program. Film and television stars attend this sixth protest action. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[Disclosure: The author is NUJP deputy secretary general.]

JOINT STATEMENT by Kodao, Bulatlat, Pinoy Weekly, Altermidya, Suniway, and IP Converge

The parties understand that the plaintiffs claimed to have been victims of what appear to be repeated cyberattacks on their respective online platforms.

Collectively, the parties declare:

IP Converge Data Services, Inc. (IPC), Suniway Group of Companies (Suniway), as well as the individual defendants, namely Ernesto R. Alberto, Nerissa S. Ramos, Anabelle L. Chua, Juan Victor I. Hernandez, Patrick David R. De Leon, Sherwin Torres, Christian Villanueva, Cean Archievald Reyes, Rolando O. Fernando, Julia Mae D. Celis, Mary Ann F. Recomono, and Jiang Zongye (collecively referred to as “defendants”),  express their utmost respect and full support of press freedom as a constitutional guarantee and a tenet of a democratic society.

As defendants have no prior knowledge of, much less consented to, the use of IPC’s and Suniway’s respective cyber-infrastructure for the perpetration of these cyberattacks, defendants commit to support a free press. Effective mechanisms to combat such attacks shall further be improved to prevent a repeat of this kind of situation.

In consideration of such declaration and commitment, plaintiff-operators of Bulatlat.com, Kodao.org, PinoyWeekly.org, and Altermidya.net hereby collectively withdraw their Complaint against defendants with prejudice. Likewise, defendants shall withdraw their counterclaims against the plaintiffs.

With this agreement, the four media outfits as plaintiffs are satisfied that their rights to press freedom and free expression have been recognized and upheld even as they vow to remain vigilant against any future or similar attacks. #

Pahayag ng Altermidya Network kay Frenchie Mae Cumpio

Pebrero 10, 2020

Nagbigay pahayag si Rhea Padilla, national coordinator ng Altermidya- People’s Alternative Media Network kaugnay sa pag-aresto kay Frenchie Mae Cumpio, mamamahayag ng Eastern Vista at sa tinaguriang Tacloban 5 noong Pebrero 7 sa Tacloban City.

Quo warranto petition attacks press freedom–NUJP

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the government’s filing of a petition seeking to nullify the franchise of ABS-CBN before the Supreme Court on Monday morning, February 10.

In a statement hours after Solicitor General Jose Calida filed the quo warranto petition at the Supreme Court, the NUJP said the move proves the Rodrigo Duterte government is hell-bent on using all its powers to shut down the broadcast network.

The NUJP said the administration’s move also risks the trampling on Congress’ authority to legislate franchises.

ABS-CBN itself broke the story on Calida’s filing, reporting the petition also targets ABS-CBN Convergence Inc., a subsidiary of one of the country’s top two networks.

Reports said that the petition accuses the respondent companies’ “unlawfully exercising their legislative franchises under Republic Acts 7966 and 8332.”

 “We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefitting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers. These practices have gone unnoticed or were disregarded for years,” Calida said.

The NUJP, however, said Calida’s petition complies with President’s desire to block the companies’ franchise renewal now pending in Congress.

Duterte himself personally and repeatedly vowed to block ABS-CBN’s franchise.

“ABS-CBN, you’re a mouthpiece of… Your franchise will expire next year. If you are expecting it to be renewed, I’m sorry. I will see to it that you’re out,” Duterte said in a mix of Filipino and English last December 3.

Duterte accused ABS-CBN of not airing his paid advertisements in the last presidential campaigns that he won.

“We must not allow the vindictiveness of one man, no matter how powerful, to run roughshod over the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of the press and of expression, and the people’s right to know,” the NUJP said.

The media group challenged Congress and the Supreme Court to be independent and refuse to be “at the beck and call of their co-equal Executive branch.

The group also called on Filipino journalists to close ranks around their beleaguered ABS-CBN colleagues and the Filipino people to resist what it calls an attack to democracy.

“We call on all Filipinos who cherish democracy to stand up and defend press freedom because this freedom belongs to you,” NUJP said.

“This is not just about ABS-CBN. This is not just about Philippine media. This is all about whether anyone can or should deprive you, the Filipino people, of your right to know,” the group added.

NUJP is organizing another protest action at the Boy Scout’s Monument in Quezon City at five o’clock this afternoon as a reaction to the filing of the petition.

It had organized four successive Friday night protests and petition signing activities at the monument and around the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City while its chapters conducted similar activities nationwide.

It also launched an online petition for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise that has so far gathered more than 170 signatures.

NUJP is joined by other media and rights organizations such as the Altermidya Network, the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines, the ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union, Defend Jobs Philippines, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and others. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)