“Let’s not forget the ‘2018 Red October’ plot. The Duterte regime is repeating its old and cheap narrative to hide its incompetence in handling the pandemic and economic issues. Instead of red-tagging these (18 SUCs) schools, address the root causes of armed conflict and heed the people’s demands.” — Regina Tolentino, Deputy Secretary-General, College Editors Guild of the Philippines
Nagsagawa ng student strike ang mga grupo ng mag-aaral mula sa iba’t-ibang unibersidad at kolehiyo sa Gate 2 ng Ateneo De Manila University sa Katipunan, Quezon City bilang bahagi ng International Students Day, Nobyembre 17, 2020.
Pangunahin nilang hiling na magkaroon ng national academic break dahil sa sunud-sunod na sakuna na dumaan sa bansa gayundin ang mga pahirap na sistema sa online classes. Ang academic break, ayon sa kanila, ay maagang deklarasyon ng pagtatapos ng semestre at mass promotion ng mga estudyante.
Binatikos din nila ang Pangulong Duterte dahil sa kriminal na kapabayaan nito na tugunan ang pandemya, edukasyon at sakuna. # (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)
Sa pagkilos ng mga kabataan sa harap ng Commission on Human Rights sa ika-48 anibersaryo ng martial law noong nakaraang Lunes, Setyembre 21, nagpahayag si Regina Tolentino, deputy secretary general ng College Editors Guild of the Philippines o CEGP, na nais ipagpatuloy ng mga kabataan ang pakikibaka noong panahon ng batas militar.
Ito aniya ay dahil walang pinag-kaiba ang kasalukuyang rehimen ni Pangulong Duterte sa panahon ni Marcos sa isyu ng karapatang pantao at usaping panlipunan.
The Duterte administration’s war on media has entered a new phase
By Karlo Mongaya
A Manila court convicted one of the Philippines’ leading journalists on charges of cyber libel in a case widely seen as the latest attack on dissenting voices and press freedoms in the country.
Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa sentenced news website Rappler’s chief executive editor Maria Ressa and former reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr. to 6 months and 1 day up to 6 years in jail and ordered them each to pay P400,000 (about US$8,000) for moral and exemplary damages on June 15.
Ressa and Santos are the first journalists in the Philippines to be found guilty of cyber libel since the law was passed in 2012. They were allowed to post bail pending appeal under the bond they paid in 2019, which cost 100,000 pesos (2,000 US dollars) each.
Rappler, an independent website of international renown has been targeted by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. The court, however, found Rappler itself to have no liability in the cyber libel case.
Press freedom advocates in the Philippines and across the world swiftly decried Ressa’s conviction as part of the Duterte administration’s campaign to terrorize and intimidate journalists.
The case against Ressa and Rappler was filed in 2017 by businessman Wilfredo Keng over a 2012 Rappler story covering his alleged links to Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was being impeached on corruption charges at the time.
Keng’s case was initially dismissed in 2017 because it was beyond the statute of limitations. Moreover, the article itself was published four months before the cybercrime law was enacted.
But the case was subsequently readmitted by the Philippine justice department, which extended the period of liability for cyber libel claims from one year to 12 years and argued the article was covered by the law because it was ‘republished’ in February 2014, when Rappler updated it.
While Duterte and his spokesmen deny any links to the cyber libel case, Rappler has been on the receiving end of regular ire from the president and his allies for actively investigating and exposing the administration’s bloody war on drugs, social media manipulation and corruption.
Rappler reporters were banned from covering presidential press briefings in 2018, for what Duterte characterized as “twisted reporting” during a presidential address.
Pro-Duterte trolls deride Rappler as a peddler of “fake news” and hurl invective at its reporters.
The cyber libel case is but the first in a total of 8 active legal cases against Ressa and Rappler which include another libel case and tax violation allegations. All were filed after Duterte came to power in 2016.
The Duterte government moved to shut down Rappler in January 2018, claiming that it violated laws on non-foreign ownership of media outlets — a claim that is demonstrably false.
The College of Mass Communication of the University of the Philippines (UP), the country’s premier state university, condemned the decision as a dangerous precedent that gives authorities the power to prosecute anyone for online content published within the past decade:
The State can prosecute even after ten, twelve or more years after publication or posting. It is a concept of eternal threat of punishment without any limit in time and cyberspace.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said the charges that Rappler faces is only the latest in “a chain of media repression that has seen the forced shutdown of broadcast network ABS-CBN and a spike in threats and harassment of journalists, all because the most powerful man in the land abhors criticism and dissent.’’
The government forced the country’s largest television network, privately-owned ABS-CBN, off air last May after the pro-Duterte congress refused to renew the station’s broadcasting license.
Growing persecution of media comes against the backdrop of an anti-terror bill passed by the legislature that allows the president to create an anti-terrorism council vested with powers to designate individuals and groups as “terrorists.”
That designation in turn allows warrantless arrests and 24 days of detention without court charges, among other draconian provisions.
Authorities have brazenly denied the bill threatens freedom in the country.
Holding the line
At a press conference after her court hearing, Ressa vowed to hold the line:
Freedom of the press is the foundation of every single right you have as a Filipino citizen. If we can’t hold power to account, we can’t do anything.
A few days before Ressa’s conviction, thousands defied the lockdown to join anti-terror bill protests in Manilla despite threats of violence from the police.
Protesters ironically described their demonstration as a “mañanita” — the word that Police General Debold Sinas, a Duterte ally, used to justify his birthday party celebration, which took place amidst severe restrictions on gatherings.
Double standards for Duterte allies and the weaponization of laws against critics were a constant theme in tweets that used the #DefendPressFreedom hashtag in response to the Ressa case.
(Kodao is a content partner of Global Voices)
Nagbigay-pahayag si Anton Narciso, miyembro ng national secretariat ng College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), kaugnay sa hatol na guilty ng Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 kina Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa at dating researcher/writer na si Rey Santos Jr.
Nahatulang nagkasala sina Ressa at Santos sa kasong cyberlibel na isinampa ng negosyante na si Wilfredo Keng. Marami ang nagulat na nagpatuloy ang paglilitis ng kaso samantalang ang artikulo ng Rappler ay nailimbag sa website nito apat na buwan bago naisabatas ang cyberliber law.
“The absence of mass testing, isolation, and contact tracing describes the Duterte administration’s lack of concrete plan. The idea of shifting to modified lockdown and passing the fate of millions of Filipinos to the private sector demonstrates how government is fighting the COVID-19 with blindfolds on.”
Daryl Angelo Baybado
College Editors Guild of the Philippines
Jo Maline Mamangun
Free expression groups and advocates are outraged at village officials and public school teachers in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija who forced a campus journalist into issuing a public apology over his criticism of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s handling of the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Arts and media alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) said the officials and teachers “deserve nothing but our (LODI) contempt and scorn” for being “bad examples to the youth” when they forced University of the East Dawn editor in chief Joshua Molo into issuing a public apology over his online criticisms of the president and the government.
“In their attempt to silence Joshua, they abused their positions of influence in the community and merely helped cover up the negligent and inept who Joshua wished to expose,” LODI said in a statement.
Molo caught the ire of Barangay San Fernando Sur officials and his former high school teachers when he questioned the Duterte administration’s “inaction” in posts on his Facebook wall. The post has since been taken down.
Molo’s posts piqued three of his former teachers at Cabiao National High School who professed their unquestioning support of the president.
LODI identified Molo’s former teachers as Jun Ainne Francisco, Rochelle Galang, Wilma Manalo, Mel Garcia, Delmar Miranda, Jonifel Ventura, and Rogelio Dela Cruz. The barangay officials are unidentified.
That Molo was eventually “forced” to issue a public apology and take down his posts have earned the ire of free expression and rights groups and advocates.
Violation to free expression
In an alert, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Redwire, an independent publication run by students of UE-Manila first broke the news and quoted friends who were in contact with the campus journalist as saying that the barangay officials threatened to file a libel case against Molo and have him picked up by police if he refused to apologize.
“A video posted on the UE Dawn editor’s social media account Sunday afternoon, April 5, showed him (Molo) making the ‘apology,’ taking his cue from persons outside the frame of the image to begin reading the message he had prepared on his phone, a possible indication he was under duress at the time,” the NUJP said.
Before removing the video, the campus journalist posted a comment saying a former teacher had asked him to take it down, the group added.
LODI said the Molo’s criticisms of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic are “non-crimes” and that he was right in pointing out the slow delivery of relief items for the citizens placed under quarantine.
Molo’s student publication, the UE Dawn, also condemned “in the strongest possible terms” actions against its editor, adding “preventing someone from expressing his or her opinion on matters such as grievances against the government is an act of oppression.”
Alumni of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), the national alliance of student publications that count the UE Dawn as its member, expressed full support to Molo and condemned “the cowardly acts of harassment against him.”
“The coronavirus pandemic is no excuse to deny anyone, including students, the right to air grievances against government and to hold government accountable for its ineptitude and neglect. The limits on physical movement render free public debate online all the more important. Students have every right to participate in the debate,” the CEGP alumni said.
In a statement, the group asked Molo’s teachers to reconsider their plans to file charges against the campus journalist.
“[They should]…allow Joshua to freely speak his mind, and to instead to help him ventilate the valid complaints he is raising regarding the Duterte administration’s response to the pandemic. Teachers should be the last ones to discourage critical and independent thinking among students. Neither should they encourage blind, unthinking obedience to authority,” the CEGP alumni said.
Human rights group Karapatan for its part said, “We are alarmed on this incident as it is a case of curtailment of the right to free expression. Karapatan would like to remind authorities that the right to free speech is protected by the Philippine Constitution and international human rights instruments. Anyone who wishes to express dismay over government’s actions should never be threatened and penalized.”
Philippines Graphic editor in chief Joel Pablo Salud also publicly criticized Molo’s former teachers, asking “What sort of teachers would take the constitutionally-assured exercise of free speech against this university student editor? These are former teachers in high school; the young man is now in college,” he said.
“Is this the kind of system these teachers are propagating–coercion, intimidation, harassment of those who will exercise their right to free speech? To make matters more disturbing, these teachers were allegedly his former Campus Journalism instructors in high school,” Salud added.
Journalist Inday Espina-Varona said the barangay officials were wrong in coercing submission from Molo on issues way beyond the specific complaint.
“Threatening Molo with arrest on grounds of anti-government sentiment is a violation of his constitutional right to free expression,” Espina-Varona said,
‘Acting like a dictator’
In the same statement, the CEGP also condemned Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s threat against Today’s Carolinian (TC), student publication of the University of San Carlos in Cebu, that published an editorial critical of the local executive.
“She [Garcia] is not exempt from the requirement of accountability of public officers, and she has no legal authority to limit what can or cannot be said, or what can be asked or commented on,” the article reads.
The editorial entitled “A governor is not above the Constitution” was a criticism of Garcia’s announcement to form a unit to track down people with critical online posts.
Garcia responded with an “invitation” to TC editor in chief Berns Mitra to “beam some light into your clearly uninformed mind that has hastily jumped to an erroneous conclusion.”
The former officers of the CEGP however said Garcia should simply answer the questions and concerns raised by Cebu campus journalists.
“The pandemic is not a license for Garcia to act like a little dictator. She remains a public servant required by law to be accountable at all times to the people,” they said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
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)
The court trying the Ampatuan Massacre cases has until December 20 of this year to announce whether the 197 accused for the murder of 58 victims are innocent or guilty.
In a November 7 memorandum, Supreme Court administrator Jose Midas Marquez granted Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 presiding judge Jocelyn A. Solis-Reyes until the said date to read her verdict to the accused.
The memorandum was Marquez’s reply to Solis-Reyes’ request for a 30-day extension to the original November 20 deadline.
In an October 28 letter, Judge Solis-Reyes wrote the Supreme Court administrator to request for the extension “due to the voluminous records of these cases.”
The records have reached a total of 238 volumes, broken down to 165 volumes of records of proceedings, 65 volumes of transcripts of stenographic notes and 8 volumes of prosecution’s documentary evidence, Solis-Reyes said.
Marquez replied that he found the ground for the judge’s request “reasonable.”
The high tribunal’s administrator however reminded that the 30-day extension is non-extendible.
He also directed Solis-Reyes to submit to his office a copy of the decision within 10 days from promulgation as proof of her compliance to decide the cases within the period requested.
The cases were originally due for promulgation on November 20 after the long-drawn trial was declared submitted for decision last August 22.
Previous to this, groups such as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said they hoped that the promulgation of the cases to happen before the 10th anniversary of the massacre on November 23.
The NUJP, along with other groups such as the Union of Journalists-University of the Philippines in Diliman and the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines, have announced a series of activities commemorating the 10th anniversary of the massacre dubbed as the worst attack on journalists in history.
Of the 58 massacre victims, 32 were journalists. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) awarded National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) national chairperson Jose Jaime “Nonoy” Espina its highest honor to its alumni at the start of the World Press Freedom concert in Quezon City last Friday, May 3.
In a special ceremony, the CEGP finally handed the award to Espina who was supposed to receive it during the Guild’s 77th National Students Press Convention at the University of the Philippines—Visayas (UPV) in Cebu City last March 9.
The awardee failed to attend the convention due to a family emergency.
The award, named after the journalist, patriot and hero Del Pilar, was given to Espina for being “a pillar of press freedom.”
“On top of his distinguished journalism career, the awardee is, without doubt, a leading force in the defense of press freedom and freedom of expression in the country today,” the CEGP’s citation, read by its secretary general Paula Sabrine Janer, said.
“As a multi-term NUJP director and now its national chairperson, the awardee steadfastly stands for these rights and leads his organization to their defense. Whatever prestige that the NUJP enjoys as a media organization here and abroad, it is owed in great part to our awardee’s leadership,” the Guild’s citation added.
Espina was a high school campus journalist in his hometome Bacolod City before becoming the editor of Pagbutlak, UPV’s college student publication in Iloilo City.
He was a member of the community media group Correspondents, Broadcasters and Reporters Association—Action News Service or COBRA-ANS of Negros Occidental that was part of the “Mosquito Press” that fought the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. He also became a reporter and editor of various local and national media outifts.
“[I]n honoring our awardee’s progressive, patriotic and disinguished career in journalism and for his principled and brave defense of press freedom and human rights in the Philippines, the CEGP awards this year’s Gawad Marcelo H. Del Pilar Award to a journalist worth emulating by student journalists everywhere,” the CEGP added.
In his acceptance speech, Espina said he is just a journalist who stands by his profession.
“I realized the importance of our profession in democracy, in society. I came to love this profession when I saw for myself the real situation of the people, especially the marginalized,” Espina said.
He added that he does not see journalism as the people’s voice but a platform so their stories are told.
“I have come to love journalism because, in my three decades of being a journalist, people sometimes come up to me to thank me for writing about their struggles,” Espina said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)