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Groups hold noise barrage calling for mass virus testing

by Sanafe Marcelo

Various organizations held noise barrages in several communities around Metro Manila Thursday, March 26, demanding free mass testing for health workers and patients with corona virus disease (COVID-19) symptoms.

Ilang residente ng Brgy. Holy Spirit, Quezon City

In Barangay Holy Spirit in Quezon City, Gabriela Women’s Party member Tess Arboleda said their noise barrage inside their homes and through social media are in support of calls for mass testing of so-called frontliners in the fight against the pandemic.

The activity also demanded food and financial assistance to poor families and workers who could no longer work because of the government-imposed lockdown.

Arboleda added that the poor are already worried because their resources and savings are fast running out two weeks into the island-wide lockdown.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers Philippines also participated in the noise barrage and in the “Tiktok” online dance challenge to call for more government support.

The teachers also called for “emergency assistance, not emergency power.”

Congress has passed bills granting President Rodrigo Duterte so-called emergency powers to realign funds to address the pandemic, among other special powers.

Members of Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), Bayan Muna, and Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA) also participated in the noise barrage. #

Emergency should not curtail independence of media

March 23, 2020

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is concerned over the bill Malacañang has asked Congress to pass in special session today, Monday, March 23, declaring a national emergency on account of the COVID-19 crisis and allowing President Rodrigo Duterte to wield extraordinary powers.

While we recognize the gravity of the health crisis our country and people are confronted with, we are just as worried that the emergency may be used as justification to suppress basic civil and political rights, including the freedom of the press and of expression.

We cite, in particular, Section 4 (4), “Authorized Powers,” which provides:

“When the public interest so requires, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest to be used in addressing the needs of the public during the CoVID- 19 emergency as determined by the President, including but not limited to, hotels and other similar establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief and aid distribution locations or other temporary medical facilities; public transportation to ferry health, emergency, and frontline personnel and other persons; and telecommunications entities to facilitate uninterrupted communication channels between the government and the public; and Provided, however, that to the extent feasible, management shall be retained by the owners of the public service or enterprise, under the direction and supervision of the President or his duly designated representative who shall render a full accounting to the President of the operations of the utility or business taken over; Provided further, That whenever the President shall determine that the further use or operation by the Government of an such public service or enterprise is no longer necessary under existing conditions, the same shall be restored to the person entitled to the possession thereof; Provided, finally, That reasonable compensation for any additional damages or costs incurred by the owner or the possessor of the subject property solely on account of the take-over may be given to the person entitled to the possession of such private properties or businesses after the situation has stabilized or at the soonest time practicable;”

The open-ended phrase “including but not limited to” exposes all possible enterprises imbued with public interest, including the media, to potential takeover, while broadcasters, which are regulated by the National Telecommunications Commission, could be construed to be “telecommunications entities to facilitate uninterrupted communication channels between the government and the public,” a function all media outfits perform.

We call on the community of independent Filipino journalists to be vigilant and close ranks against any attempts to prevent us from carrying out our duties. We also call on media houses to assert independence from government interference.

In this time of crisis, we owe it to our people to assure the continued and timely delivery of accurate information. #

The NUJP National Directorate