Posts

Journalist seriously wounded in gun attack

(Updated: 10:00 pm, August 6)

A journalist and human rights defender is seriously wounded after being shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his house in Lagawe, Ifugao at six o’clock tonight, Tuesday, August 6.

Brandon Lee, Ifugao correspondent of Baguio City-based media outfit Northern Dispatch and paralegal volunteer of both the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), was immediately taken to a local hospital for treatment.

He was later transferred to a bigger hospital in the neighboring province of Nueva Vizcaya, a source informed Kodao.

In a statement, the CHRA said the 54th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army frequented Lee’s residence as well as the offices of both the IPM and the Justice and Peace Advocates of Ifugao, of which he is also a member, for weeks prior to tonight’s shooting.

The soldiers gathered data by interrogating and intimidating the organizations’ members and staff, the CHRA reported.

The Philippine Army team was headed by a certain 1Lt Karol Jay R. Mendoza while its Civil-Military Operations head is a certain Lt.Col. Narciso B. Nabulneg, Jr. who both invoked President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 in their interrogations, the group added.

Duterte’s EO 70 issued last December created a task force to combat insurgency that human rights organizations blame for the killing of activists across the country.

In the task force’s launch in Camp Bado Dangwa in La Trinidad, Benguet last May 24, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police jointly identified Ifugao Province as a “priority target in the anti-insurgency campaign.”

Brandon Lee (Photo from his Facebook account)

In 2015, Lee was among the IPM members and staff accused of being New People’s Army members.

Lee’s media outfit, Northern Dispatch, had also been a victim of red-tagging by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Lee first became Northern Dispatch’s correspondent in 2010.

Other sources told Kodao that Lee’s IPM colleagues are currently under surveillance from unidentified men, preventing them from visiting Lee at the hospital. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Freedom of expression in the time of Duterte

Over three years ago, the nation has been promised: change is coming. And change did come, but things took a turn for the worse.

As the nation marks President Rodrigo Duterte’s third year in power, we look back in sheer dismay over the unprecedented attacks perpetrated primarily by the state, with the apparent goal of shrinking the space for free expression in the country.

Once Duterte assumed the presidency in June 2016, the dome of impunity has widened and enveloped practically the whole of the archipelago. What was once considered rare and infrequent news on police-instigated killings, massacres, and haranguing of communities speedily became frequent staples in the news. Aside from the drug war, dozens of massacres, killings, and arbitrary arrests have been committed at a rate only comparable to the dark years of the Marcos era. With the rampant human rights violations, wittingly or unwittingly, the victims have become mere statistics, losing their names and identities to the dark powers-that-be.

Even freedom of expression is in peril. Merely voicing out concern and reporting on the aggravating human rights situation in the country puts one at risk. The attacks were sustained and targeted all fronts: from the red-tagging of activists and organizations, to the harassment and even killing of journalists. The string of cases against Rappler, for instance, shows how this administration wields its entire machinery to hide the truth in its bloody “war on drugs.” Based on the report released by the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network, from June 30, 2016 to April 30, 2019, a total of 128 cases of threats and attacks against the media have been documented, 60 of which were directly perpetrated by state agents. These incidents range from intimidation, including red-tagging, visits by police teams to the offices of media agencies, to the association of independent media organizations to supposed ouster plots.

No one was spared – from incarcerating vocal critic Sen. Leila de Lima, to attacking the church and even international organizations, Duterte stopped at nothing to make his perceived enemies fall, mincing no words, except in certain instances, like in issues concerning China. Remember how the state practically booted out Sister Patricia Fox, an Australian nun who have worked for decades among the poor and the marginalized just for voicing out her concerns and joining a fact-finding mission? And what about the perjury charges filed by the military against human rights defenders from Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela?

Remember how, just recently, veteran journalist Margarita Valle has been nabbed for unknown reasons, only to be released eventually, with the state saying it was just a case of mistaken identity?

Even artists are being criminalized. Two artists — Alvin Fortaliza of Bohol, and Clydie Sabate of Negros Occidental, have been arrested and detained on trumped-up charges. And who could not forget the military’s red tagging of filmmakers who produced socially relevant works?

The attacks were unrelenting. From the “Red October” plot to the egregious “Oust Duterte matrix,” clearly the administration is not on a “wait and see” mode but rather on an active frenzy. Recently, the police filed sedition, cyber libel and other criminal charges against Vice President Leni Robredo and 35 other individuals, including lawyers and Church people, over the Bikoy narcotics video series. Their goal: mass intimidation. They are deploying all weapons in their arsenal to police even the opinions of the public: from the employment of a massive “troll army” and other forms of astroturfing or the attempt to bloat supposed public support for policies, resulting in an era where genuine reports and fake news are difficult to tell apart; the ramped-up surveillance of perceived critics of the administration; to imposing martial law in Mindanao, and similar thinly-veiled military efforts in provinces in Visayas and Luzon.

Even the Internet is no longer a safe space. Remember how easy it was for state agents to relentlessly conduct “distributed denial of service” or DDoS attacks against the alternative media, shutting down their websites at critical moments when reports on attacks against the marginalized and underrepresented were published. International observers dub these attacks as one of the worst cyber-attacks they have seen across the globe in recent history.

The Duterte administration has even tapped draconian laws such as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 to file cases such as cyberlibel against its critics. With Duterte allies now controlling both houses of Congress, soon, the reviled Human Security Act is also set to be amended to give stronger powers to state agents to tag practically anyone and everyone as terrorists, with little to no effort.

Most of these schemes and turn of events aimed at mass intimidation employ the same tactic: preemptive vilification – discrediting those who dare critique policies, pronouncements, and actions of the government even before these critics open their mouths or type their statements. In a nutshell, the last three years drastically shrunk the space for free expression.

Just as state agents are not sparing any moment to practically trample on any and every form of dissent, we must also not wait as our basic civil liberties are being pressed for space. At this juncture, we must realize the importance of the freedom of expression: losing this right opens the floodgates to the violation of other civil, political, and economic rights. Freedom of expression serves as a safeguard for the people to enjoy other freedoms. Without free expression, we can lose all our other important rights in an instant.

It is easy to allow fear to set in and shut our lips and eyes to the worsening state of our nation. But once we do that, will it alleviate the situation? No, it will only continue festering.

To allow the state and its agents to pillage on the right to free expression is tantamount to surrendering hard-earned victories of our people in the past decades. We cannot simply allow the looming shadow of dictatorship to easily slip back. We must decisively unite and fight back.

We need to reclaim the real meaning of change, of how that potent word opens a world of possibilities. Despite the relentless attacks on our basic civil liberties, we need to remember that real change is a force that makes us question everything. Change is what we aspire when we innovate, when we invent, when we create. Change sparks genius, and ignites the fire that seeks to melt and recast the status quo.

To change is to reaffirm the value of militancy, of seeing the potency of collective action. Genuine change requires united action. From artists to journalists to the common people, we need all the force we can muster to fight back. There is no moment to spare. We need to reclaim every inch of space for our civil rights. We need to fight back now. #

Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI)

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

Concerned Artists of the Philippines

Altermidya

Update on the DDoS defense of alternative media outfits

Respondents Suniway and IP Converge, in their respective answers filed in court, deny any knowledge in the cyberattacks launched against us. Both absolve themselves of any accountability to the three-month long distributed denial of service attacks despite the fact that their infrastructure were used in these attacks.

How could one then explain that after the filing of civil case against these companies, the cyberattacks stopped?

We also decry the counterclaim filed by both companies in the total amount of P6.5 million for allegedly besmirching their reputation. It’s clear that we, the plaintiffs, have no malice and only state, as a matter of fact, the results of forensic investigation done by Qurium identifying them as sources of DDoS attacks.

The filing of counterclaim is an act of harassment against non-profit media outfits and meant to intimidate us. We are not backing down.

Altermidya

Bulatlat

Kodao

Pinoy Weekly

The UP ‘Rebel Kule’ case: Flatlining free expression

Altermidya Network, the broad alliance of alternative media and community journalists groups in the Philippines, denounces the patently unreasonable manner in which the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Executive Committee (EC) ordered the suspension of the editorial board of the “Rebel Kule.”

The EC on June 21 overturned the earlier decision of the UP Diliman Student Disciplinary Council (SDC) to dismiss the charges of stealing, fraud, and disobedience filed by Philippine Collegian outgoing editor-in-chief Jayson Edward San Juan against the editors of Rebel Kule. The charges were based on allegations of misconduct in relation to the use of the Facebook and Twitter accounts that San Juan claimed were among the Collegian’s digital assets.

The EC – composed of the university’s deans and directors, the chancellor, vice chancellor, the university registrar, and other officials – released a two-page decision suspending the members of the Rebel Kule editorial board for one semester and five weeks, without even explaining why it has overturned the SDC’s earlier ruling, which said that San Juan’s accusations had “no sufficient basis.”

Among those to be suspended is incoming Philippine Collegian EIC Beatrice Puente, making her assumption of the position problematic. Also suspended are three graduating editors who were excluded from the graduation list this semester.

Rebel Kule has pointedly emphasized how due process was grossly set aside – both by the EC and the SDC – by not informing the respondents that San Juan appealed the SDC’s decision. Neither was the respondents given a copy of the appeal. Worse, the highest academic body in UP’s flagship campus made its decision with neither enough justification nor reason.

Not only is this move a dangerous precedent for campus publications throughout the country, it also undermines the University of the Philippines’ reputation as a bastion of free speech and expression by  imposing unwarranted penalties on students who dared continue the Philippine Collegian’s progressive tradition.

We have witnessed how, in times of turmoil, Rebel Kule persisted in reporting relevant issues that students and the UP community needed to know.

Is this how UP works now: haphazardly releasing decisions without the benefit of either logic or reason? Has the malady of oppression and repression besieging the nation now also adversely affected what was once a bastion of dissent?

The entire nation is besieged by the killing of journalists, the warrantless arrests against regime critics, and the harassments — and it seems that the country’s premier university has become just one more government institution similarly engaged in repression.

Just as we must hold accountable the UP Diliman administration and call for it to correct what we deem as a grave mistake, we must all unite in combating the darkness enveloping the nation. We cannot allow our civil liberties to flatline, and with it the country’s hopes for a true democracy. #

Court summons served to 2 tech companies over cyber-attacks vs alternative news

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — A court summon has been served Thursday, April 11, to two tech companies facing a civil complaint before a Quezon City court over the cyber-attacks against several alternative news agencies in the Philippines.

“We welcome the serving of the summons before the two tech companies that were traced as sources of the cyberattacks against our sites, according to the digital forensic investigation of Sweden-based group Qurium,” said Rhea Padilla, national coordinator of AlterMidya – People’s Alternative Media Network, an umbrella organization of at least 30 alternative news agencies in the Philippines and one of the plaintiffs in the complaint.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyer spokesperson Josalee Deinla told Bulatlat that the two tech companies namely IP Converge and Suniway Group of Companies are expected to submit their respective answers to the filed complaint in 15 days.

After this, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 220 will schedule the pre-trial, Deinla added.

Padilla said, “this is a first in many steps to find out who are behind this vicious bid to silence critical media and stifle freedom of expression in the country.”

On March 29, marking the 25th year since the first ever internet connection in the Philippines, four alternative news agencies filed a civil complaint over the relentless cyber-attacks in the form of Distributed Denial of Service.

Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation, as stated on its digital forensic report, was able to unmask and trace the real IP addresses behind the cyber-attacks, which was allegedly carried out via the infrastructure of the two tech companies.

Bulatlat, through its publisher Alipato Media Center, is among the four plaintiffs in the civil complaint, along with Kodao Productions, Pinoy Weekly and Altermidya.  #

Alternative media outfits fight back, file complaints vs. cyber-attacks

Alternative media outfits identified two companies where the intense cyber attacks against them since December are coming from.

Bulatlat, Kodao, and Pinoy Weekly, as well as the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) filed a civil complaint at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court this morning against IP Converge Data Services, Inc. and Suniway Group of Companies they believe are where the cyber-attacks are coming from.

“Through the solid and thorough digital forensic investigation of Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation over time, it was discovered that the cyber-attacks were coming from companies IP Converge and Suniway,” Altermidya national coordinator Rhea Padilla said.

According to their respective websites, IP Converge Data Services, Inc. is the country’s first cloud services provider while Suniway is an internet services provider.

Exposed IP addresses

Padilla said the digital forensic report revealed that despite hiding behind a Virtual Private Network (VPN), one of the attackers exposed their real IP addresses when they accessed the website without turning on their hidden IPs.

In another instance, one of the attackers also revealed his IP address when he used his Samsung Android phone to check the websites of alternative media groups under attack.

The exposed IP addresses, she added, may easily be traced to IP Converge based on the findings of Qurium.

Meanwhile, Qurium learned that the infrastructure of networks being used to launch the attacks belongs to Suniway, which holds business addresses both in Hong Kong and in the Philippines with two Chinese national listed as among its officers.

“The user agents who conducted the attacks using devices within the premises and under the control and supervision of Defendants IP Converge and Suniway are unidentified at this point,” their complaint said.

First-ever complaint

Padilla said their civil complaint against cyber-attackers is the first ever in the Philippines.

“This is definitely a first and it will serve as a testament that we will neither be cowed nor will we allow these cyber-attacks to continue,” Padilla said.

The complainants were assisted by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

Since December 2018, alternative media sites have been subjected to sustained cyber-attacks in the form of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

DDoS refers to the malicious attempt to overload the server of a website, aimed to shut it down.

Padilla said this kind of attack “denies legitimate readers of access to truthful reports.”

“Plaintiffs have reasonable ground to believe that there are more than one of them, each one targeting a particular organization,” their complaint said.

Padilla added that launching a cyber-attack with this kind of magnitude and immensity is impossible without the knowledge of the companies.

The alternative media outfits maintained that these relentless cyber-attacks are politically-motivated.

They called on the two companies to reveal their real clients.

“We believe these attacks are state-sponsored and are part of the Duterte administration’s attempt to stifle press freedom in the country. It seems cyber censorship is one of the administration’s tactics to make way for an open dictatorial rule,” Padilla said.

The filing of the complaint coincided with the 25th anniversary of the internet in the Philippines.

In March 29, 1994, the first ever internet message were sent between the University of San Carlos in Cebu City and Syracuse University in New York. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Netizens’ free expression in grave threat with cyberlibel conviction

THE CONVICTION of two radio broadcasters in Kidapawan City for simply expressing their opinion in social media –supposedly meant to provide an avenue for personal opinions and narratives – is the latest attack on free expression not only of media practitioners but of everyone who dare share their stand on burning issues. Their conviction may well be a signal that will herald a new wave of attacks against free speech and expression, rights that are in fact enshrined in our very own Constitution.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the conviction meted by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Kidapawan City to broadcasters Eric Rodinas of Radyo Natin and Larry Baja Subillaga who were charged with online libel by North Cotabato Governor Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza.
In a decision dated March 22, the Kidapawan RTC convicted the two broadcasters of online libel with a penalty imprisonment ranging from a minimum of 4 years and one day to a maximum of 8 years and one day. The broadcasters were also ordered to pay P1 million fine, P1 million for moral damages, and P500,000 for examplary damages.

The case sprung from what Governor Taliño-Mendoza labelled as “malicious” statements posted by the two in their social media accounts last March 2017. In his Facebook post, Subillaga said that Taliño-Mendoza was fooling the people of the province, while Dugaduga said the governor became rich because of corruption. The broadcasters said that they will appeal their conviction before the Supreme Court.

This latest development proves what we have been pointing out ever since the passage of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012: that it can be exploited to silence criticism by well-entrenched and powerful people, especially government officials. RA 10175 not only criminalizes libel – something that has long been clamored to be decriminalized – but also sets penalties “one degree higher” than that provided for libel in the Revised Penal Code.

Weaponizing online libel adds to the long list of attacks perpetrated by state forces to the media, which include harassment of journalists, cyber attacks on newssites, legal debacles, and most heinously, killings. This latest development only intensifies the reigning climate of impunity brutely cultivated and propagated by the current administration. Online libel is yet another lethal weapon that can be abused to silence criticism by an apparent insecure government afraid of the truth. We reiterate our call to repeal the anti-cybercrime law, decriminalize libel, and to put a stop to all forms of attacks against legitimate dissent and free speech.

OVERCOME CYBER-MARTIAL LAW

POOLED EDITORIAL

People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya)

12 March 2019

March 12 is World Day against Cyber Censorship, when advocates around the globe will call for an Internet that is not only accessible to all, but also free from restrictions on free speech. It is specially relevant to us today, when our nation is practically under cyber martial law and another tyranny.

The Duterte regime is using every means to silence dissent, criticism and free expression: from threats, incarceration to killings, to cyber warfare. The main target of this latest assault are the alternative media that mostly via online disseminate reports and views on events and issues that are rarely covered, if at all, by the dominant media. The goal is to deny a public hungry for information the reports and stories that it needs to understand what is happening in a country besieged by lies and disinformation.

The distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) against the websites of Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, Pinoy Weekly, and Altermidya began in December and have not stopped since. DDoS is a malicious form of cyber-attack that aims to overload a website and make it inaccessible.

The websites of Arkibong Bayan, Manila Today and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) have also been attacked, and so have the websites of human rights group Karapatan, Arkibong Bayan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and lately, Ibon Foundation.

Qurium, the Sweden-based media foundation assisting Bulatlat, Altermidya, Karapatan and Pinoy Weekly, has established that the same techniques and botnets are being used against these websites. An independent review of Kodao Productions’ traffic logs also revealed the same attack signatures.  Quirium noted that it has not seen the same scale of DDoS attacks in any other country.

The details of the attacks have been reported to the National Computer Emergency Response Team (NCERT) of the Department of Information and Communications Technology. But the agency has remained alarmingly silent on the issue.

We have every reason to believe that these attacks are state-sponsored. In the past two years, cyber warfare has taken the form of vilification and redbaiting of progressive leaders and organizations through social media.

The Duterte administration identifies “strategic communication” as one of the pillars of its “whole of nation” approach against dissent and criticism, in which the regime’s counterinsurgency program will infiltrate and target social media and rid cyberspace of  “communist propaganda.”

The cyber attacks are part and parcel of the ongoing assault by the administration on the media. From threatening to revoke the franchises of big media companies to the attempt at the incarceration of Rappler executive Maria Ressa, to the killing of community journalists in the past months, the Duterte administration will stop at nothing to silence the Fourth Estate and its critics.

But Duterte and his keyboard and old-media army of mercenaries are hell-bent not only in silencing their perceived enemies, but also in expanding the echo chambers they maintain to create the illusion of continued support. On one hand, they attack news websites and journalists in all possible ways. On the other, they maintain a horde of fake supporters, employing what is known as “astroturfing” or the practice of creating the illusion of mass support by employing bots and trolls.

The alternative media have consistently upheld journalism for the people and given voice to the marginalized and the oppressed. Because of the political and economic interests of the corporate media, it is the alternative media that are discharging the democratic imperative of providing the information Filipinos need in this hour of national peril.  

We enjoin everyone from all walks of life to unite against, to expose, and to work together in stopping the attacks against all media. We should exhaust all means to make those responsible accountable for their foul deeds.  There are many technical and legal remedies that can and must be pursued to combat and halt the unabated DDoS attacks, including mirroring target websites to keep them online.

To defend press freedom is to defend the people’s right to know. As our fellow journalists and advocates continue to expose the truths on the attacks on indigenous communities, workers, farmers, and other groups, we ask all freedom-loving Filipinos to stand with us. Only through the strength and power of our unity can we defeat these brazen attempts at silencing protest and suppressing the truth.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2443783208966707&id=216155061729544

Espina-Varona wins international award for journalists

A Filipino won one of the most prestigious global awards for journalists for her resistance to “financial, political, economic or religious pressures or because of the values and rules that enable them to resist” in reporting on issues that are sensitive in the Philippines.

Cited for her many reports on child prostitution, violence against women, LGBT (lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgenders) issues and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao, veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona was awarded the Prize for Independence by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in London Thursday, November 8.

In her acceptance speech, Espina-Varona shared the honor with her “embattled Philippine colleagues: the 185 killed since the 1986 restoration of a fragile, perpetually threatened democracy, 12 of them in the first two years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s rule.”

“This is also for colleagues who face death threats, vilification campaigns, and revocation of access to coverage, for doing what journalists are supposed to do — questioning official acts and claims, especially on issues of human rights and corruption,” she added.

Varona said other threats are more insidious — like having journalists becoming witnesses to cases filed by cops in the aftermath of raids, practically a quid pro quo for continued access to police operations.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is launching the “Sign Against The Sign” campaign to repeal the law that fuels the practice today in Quezon City.

“There is another grave problem we face: the proposed draconian changes to the law that would make terrorists of practically all critics of the government and make journalists and media accessories whenever we give voice to persons and groups the government deems ‘terrorist’ — practically all dissenters,” Espina-Varona added.

She said she is proud of Philippine journalism, of colleagues who probe not only the effects of growing autocracy, but also the roots of social woes that allowed a false messiah to bedazzle Filipinos.

“If I am independent, it is because there are colleagues and fellow citizens who fight for rights and freedoms, who refuse to be silent in the face of thousands of murders and other injustices, who fight on despite threats, arrests and torture, whose words and deeds speak from beyond the grave,” Espina-Varona said.

“Filipino journalists are brave because we come after the many who showed courage over hundreds of years. And we are brave because our people are brave,” she added.

Espina-Varona said Filipino journalists cannot let the Filipino people down, nor allow them to forget the country’s dark past as well as their triumph against it.

The NUJP congratulated Espina-Varona for the award in a statement Friday, thanking its former president for recognizing the role independent Filipino journalists played in defending and advancing the Filipino people’s rights and liberties.

The NUJP also thanked the awardee for her recognition of journalists who defend democracy “despite the dangers they face, not least from the very forces supposedly sworn to protect and preserve our freedoms.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NutriAsia guards, Meycauayan police deliberately attack journalists

During the violent dispersal of striking NutriAsia workers and their supporters last Monday, July 30, company guards and Meycauayan police under the direct supervision of Superintendent Santos Mera attacked and arrested without provocation members of the media covering the incident.

This video is a collection of actual footage by Kodao and Altermidya reporters who were arrested and hurt, as well as Supt. Mera’s illegal efforts to prevent others to inquire with him if they arrested the five journalists.