Posts

Mga tula para kina Nonoy at Neil

ANG IKALIMANG BULKAN NG NEGROS

Ni Raymund B. Villanueva

Ang Negros ay may limang bulkan:

Kanlaon, Talinis, Silay at Mandalagan

Habang ang iba’y himbing, madalas magbuga ang una

Pinaka-masipag ang panlima, ngala’y Nonoy Espina.

Totoong ang Kanlaon ang pinakamatayog

Ngunit si Nonoy ang siyang bantayog

Siyang walang tabing na ulap at sinag sa tuktok

Ulo’y yukod sa lupa, korona’y puting buhok.

At kung si Nonoy ang nag-iingay

Hindi lamang ungol, hindi lamang dighay

Sabog kung sabog, walang awatan

Tulad ng apat, tunay ring bulkan.

Ngunit ang apoy niya’y biyaya

Liwanag sa karimlan, sa dibdib ay pag-asa

Pampatining ng bakal, pampatibay ng tuhod

Sa mga nanghihina’y pantuwid ng gulugod.

Bawat pagsabog niya’y pagpapala

Alay pagdaka ay matabang lupa

Tayong mortal ay hinikayat magtanim

Sa bukang-liwayway ay may aanihin.

Ating bulkan man ngayo’y himlay

Hindi niya nais ang protracted na lumbay

Bakas niya’y habang buhay na gabay:

“Taena, bok, gapiin ang kaaway!”

–1:20 n.h.

  16 Hulyo 2021

  Lungsod Quezon

= = = = = = = =

PANÁTA NI DOLÓ

(Pagkaraán ng “Alípin ng Gútom”, Linocut, 18”x18”, 2015)

Ni Rene Boy Abiva

(i)

Pinupúnit nitong tínta, pinsél, at kámbas ang bagsík

Ng balutìng púro dugô. Di yatà’t pawang taláhib

Na mabilís makasúgat sa mga paá’t balíkat

Papakín mo man ng halík ay tiyák na magnanaknák.

(ii)

Kung gayon, ang báwat hágod ng patúlis at manipís

Na brótsa ay pawang tukâ ng tandáng na bumabásag

Sa báwat madalîng-áraw. “Doló! May imórtalidád?”

“Walâ! Pantásya lang ito ng pala-túlog na burgís!”

(iii)

Halá! Bángo’t magsigísing kayóng mga maka-síning,

At h’wág sanang ikatwírang ngayón lang kayó nagisíng!

Matutúhan niyo sana na kung kayó’y isáng bagtíng

At sa digmàan gamítin, alípin ay magpipigíng!

(iv)

Ah! Mukhâng tamà nga yatà ang sabi ng matatandâ

Doón sa libís ng Tayug, lupàng mahál ni Calosa,

“Íngatan mo’t parámihin itong mga sambásambá,

Pagkát mínsa’y itinumbá nilá ang gintông kalésa.”

(v)

Ganyán, ganyán ang kamandág! Nakakanginíg ng pálad!

Yaóng para kang bumúhat ng tubó túngong kamálig,

O nagkamáda ng batóng umugáog sa daigdíg;

Ganitó nga kung wásakin ng ’saáng pintór ang ligálig.

= = = = = = = = =

(Ang mga tulang ito ay handog kina Jose Jaime “Nonoy” L. Espina ng National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) at Leonilo “Neil” O. Doloricon ng Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP). Si Nonoy ay pumanaw noong Hulyo 7 samantalang si Neil ay namaalam noong Hulyo 16, kapwa sa sakit.

Kapwa silang kasaping tagapagtatag ng kani-kanilang organisasyon at mga kagyat na dating tagapangulo ng mga ito sa panahon ng kanilang kamatayan. Si Nonoy ay tagapangulo ng NUJP mula 2018 hanggang Marso 2021 at si Neil nama’y tagapangulo ng CAP mula 2019 hanggang Mayo ngayong taon.

Mga nangugunang tagapag-tanggol ng kalayaan sa pamamahayag at ekspresyon, huling nagkasama sina Neil at Nonoy sa pinakalamalaking pagkilos para sa karapatang ito ng bansa noong 2020 sa harap ng ABS-CBN sa Lungsod Quezon.)

China wipes out LGBTQ channels on WeChat with no explanation

Some believe the crackdown is related to the three-child policy.

The following post is the English version of a Chinese report written by Rex Yung and published on Hong Kong-based CitizenNews on July 7, 2021. It is published on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement.

By CitizenNews

At least 14 LGBTQ public channels on WeChat, the most popular Chinese social media platform, were permanently blocked on July 6, 2021. All their content vanished without a trace. 

The majority of the channels were run by university-based LGBTQ groups including Purple at Tsinghua University, Colorsworld at Peking University, Gender Equality Research Association at Wuhan University and Zhihe Society at Fudan University. 

Chinese Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on July 8 that the removal of LGBTQ channels on WeChat was in accordance with Chinese law:

CitizenNews’ reporters reached out to a number of group administrators through various channels, but they all declined to comment on the incident. 

An LGBTQ activist commented anonymously that the incident had hit the community very hard as they don’t have many in-person opportunities to connect with other LGBTQ people — and now even virtual channels are blocked.  

He revealed that many sexual minority groups had been under pressure because of June’s LGBTQ Pride Month and the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. The community had faced many verbal attacks on social media in the past few months, but they were shocked that all their accounts were shut down so abruptly. 

According to a report from Reuters, the Chinese authorities have been investigating the loyalty of the university-based LGBTQ groups since May 2021:

Many of the LGBTQ groups blocked on WeChat have been established for many years. For example, the Guangzhou-based Gay and Lesbian Campus Association of China was founded in 2006. In 2014, they published a report entitled ‘Report on the Misrepresentation and Stigmatization of Homosexuality in Chinese High School Textbooks’, criticizing textbooks that reinforced stigmas on homosexuality. One of their members even sued the Ministry of Education for discrimination. 

Founded in 2005, the Zhihe Society of Fudan University is the first student organization that focuses on gender equity in China. Since its establishment, the society had run a play called ‘Monologues from the Vagina’ on campus annually until 2018 when the University authorities stepped in to ban their performance. 

Earlier this year, the Society was punished with a three-month suspension for repeatedly violating the Fudan University Student Association Management Regulations. One of the violations cited by the university administrator was that it had forwarded the announcement of an online lecture on feminism organized by the University of Michigan in the United States. The act was flagged as a ‘very serious violation’ as it mobilized students to participate in activities organized by foreign forces outside of the university. 

In recent years, thanks to the ideological struggle against Western culture, there is a general belief that feminist and queer movements in China are colluding with foreign forces.

Regarding the disbanding of LGBTQ accounts on WeChat, reactions are very polarized on Chinese social media. Those who support equal rights for LGBTQ people are outraged by the crackdown. Some believe that the action has something to do with the three-child policy. One comment on Weibo said: 

“A surge of conservative forces. First they targeted the feminist, then they went after LGBT people. They just want you to go to bed and give birth to three children.”

Another said:

“Gays and Lesbians can’t give birth to three children, this is a policy-backed crackdown on difference.”

As for those who are against LGBTQ rights, they celebrate the disbandment of the public channels on social media and praise the authorities for stepping in to ban LGBTQ groups’ campus activities. 

For example, Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the Ministry of Commerce, wrote in a WeChat post, 

“This is the right way. In dealing with the perverted LGBT, we could allow their existence in silence, but we could not let them enjoy the privilege of standing above other normal people. This is an attempt to protect national security and save the Chinese society from extinction.”

Many criticize the LGBTQ community for taking part in the pride month activities on Weibo. For example, one comment said

“You can say ‘I am gay and I am proud’. But what is the point of saying that in public? Whether you are proud of not has nothing to do with the general public. Have you been oppressed? Are the gay and lesbian being discriminated upon? The rights that they demand is a privilege in the name of the sexual minority.”

A number of posts circulating online speculate that the Chinese LGBTQ community has been infiltrated by foreign forces. Though this is widely viewed as a conspiracy theory, some cited a Weibo post by the U.S. consulates in China supporting LGBTQ rights as evidence.

One such post summed up the US’s plot against China in two points: 

“First, LGBTQI divides people into different groups. This would give space for the US to sow discord and destroy the unity of the Chinese people and instigate internal conflicts; 

“Second, China’s fertility rate has become so low that it must intervene, and while the country has launched the three-child policy and encouraged fertility. Against such background, LGBTQI movement would encourage more Chinese people to become infertile and sabotage China’s population plan.”

China’s official stance on homosexuality has followed a ‘Three No’ policy for many years — no support, no encouragement and no opposition.

The country decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses in 2001. 

In early 2019, China accepted the UN Human Rights Council’s recommendations on improving LGBTQ people’s rights. Though it did not recognize same-sex-partnershipin its updated Civil Code last year.

Suppression of feminist and LGBTQ communities’ online presence has escalated in recent months.

In April, the Chinese social media platform Douban closed at least eight feminist channels. The platforms said the action was taken to prevent the spread of extremism and radical political views. One month later,  Xiao Meili, a well-known feminist, was accused by online nationalists of colluding with foreign forces and supporting Hong Kong independence. Eventually, Xiao, together with more than a dozen feminists who spoke out for her, had their accounts blocked by Weibo.

However, no authority has given any official explanation on the suppressive policies. An LGBTQ rights supporter described the situation as:

“Something covers your mouth and you can’t make any noise. Who should I file the appeal to? You can’t identify who exactly is in charge. Which government authority is staging the clampdown? What kind of power are you confronting? The whole thing is so repressive, suffocating and ridiculous.”

(This report was also published by Global Voices, a content-sharing partner of Kodao.)

IN SUPPORT OF CONG CORRALES AND LADY ANN SALEM

A statement by Fellows of the 2011 UP-CMC Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop

Mindanao Gold Star Daily associate editor Leonardo Vicente “Cong” B. Corrales is again under attack by enemies of press freedom and freedom of expression. Shady people behind Facebook page “Kamatooran” and “Uswag Radio Bukidnon” red-tagged Cong, an abominable act that puts our colleague in grave danger.

We, fellows of the 15th University of the Philippines-College of Mass Communication Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop, condemn the cowardly attacks against our co-fellow Cong. He has not done anything illegal and immoral in voicing out his opinions. It is his attackers who warrant investigation and prosecution for their dastardly deeds.

Like Cong, our Lopez Jaena batch mate and Manila Today editor Lady Ann “Icy” Salem is also being made to suffer for speaking truth to power. She was unjustly arrested last December 10, International Human Rights Day, and slapped with patently trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. The State preposterously accused her of being a member of a gun-running syndicate when all she wields is her pen and camera. Icy has yet to be released from prison more than two weeks after the Mandaluyong Court dismissed the charges against her.

The enemies of freedom are mistaken in thinking our colleagues are easily cowed. Both remain steadfast and vow to keep speaking out for truth and justice. We applaud Cong and Icy’s fortitude against efforts to silence their voices. We are proud of them.

When social injustices reign, critical voices like Cong and Icy’s could only spark hope. There should be more voices like theirs, not less. #

SIGNED:

-Joseph Ben “JB” R. Deveza                             -Rev. Fr. Ritche T. Salgado, OCarm

-Ronalyn “Len” V. Olea                                     -JM Agreda

-Michelle Castro Zoleta                                    -Raymund B. Villanueva

-Bobby Q. Labalan                                            -Renato “Macky” Macaspac

-Winnie Aguilar                                                -Kim Arveen Patria

-Ryan D. Rosauro

-Ed Lingao (Resource Person)

‘Red-tagging is anathema to a democracy’

“We emphasize – red-tagging is anathema to a democracy. The promotion and conduct of such acts attempt to invalidate, muffle and silence the views and work of human rights defenders, activists, and advocates of social causes, and the peoples’ exercise of basic rights and fundamental freedoms.”Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, Karapatan

Lawyers group says peaceful protests during quarantine legal

By Joseph Cuevas

A group of human rights lawyers reminded authorities there is no law prohibiting rallies under the government’s Covid19 quarantine.

Reacting to a Philippine National Police (PNP) warning that protesters may be arrested if they join planned Philippine Independence Day protests Friday, June 12, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said the anti-coronavirus law does not authorize the arrest of citizens exercising their freedom of expression.

In a statement, NUPL said Republic Act (RA) No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and RA) 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases do not prohibit rallies.

“They do not have provisions allowing arrests simply on alleged violation of mass gathering or quarantine rules,” NUPL said.

The PNP is reported to have issued threats to arrest protesters against the controversial anti-terrorism bill due for signing into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Various groups have announced a protest event dubbed the “Grand Mañanita”, in clear reference to PNP National Capital Region Police office commander Debold Sinas’ controversial party last May.

The police general’s birthday popularly is perceived as a blatant violation of the government’s own prohibitions against mass gatherings during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Department of Interior and Local Government also said public gatherings during the current General Community Quarantine (GCQ) are prohibited while Malacanang yesterday said that mass gatherings are only limited to 10 persons.

NUPL however pointed out that arrests of protesters, such as those that happened against Bulacan and Marikina relief workers, Caloocan jeepney drivers and anti-terrorism bill protesters in Cebu City, are not prohibited by the Bayanihan law as well as various Inter-Agency Task Force rules and executive orders on the ongoing quarantines.

The group added that the Bayanihan law and the orders are not criminal laws that allow the arrests of protesters.

The NUPL also pointed out relevant laws and statutes such as Article III of the 1987 Constitution, the 1985 Public Assembly Act or B.P. 880, Article 21 of 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights safeguarding the rights of citizens to air grievances.

Various groups all over the country are planning on coordinated rallies as opposition to the prospective anti-terrorism law snowballs. #

World Press Freedom Day 2020: Let us remain free

By The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)

May 3, 2020

As in years past, we observe World Press Freedom Day more for the lack than the reality.

Today, we see the existing space for freedom of the press and of expression narrow even more not only because of the inevitable changes in the way we do things but also, if not more so, from authorities’ uneven and often arbitrary implementation of the law and of measures ostensibly supposed to keep us safe.

Just as bad, feedback from colleagues on the ground indicate that most, especially freelancers and correspondents in the provinces, as well as those who work for small outfits, have been basically left to fend for themselves in covering the pandemic. While there are commendable efforts by some colleagues to help others, these are admittedly not enough.

And this is just physical safety.

Although there is a growing recognition of stress and trauma as part of the risks journalists face, aside from the peer support network initiated by NUJP and programs set up by other media groups and the larger media outfits, there are hardly any readily available and sustained support systems for colleagues experiencing mental health issues.

Meanwhile, like so many in the national workforce, contractual media workers, who are covered by “no work, no pay” policies, face uncertainty as their outfits cut down on production or cancel programs. And colleagues have voiced fears of widespread job cuts should the crisis drag on and cut deeper into already falling revenues.

Governments, both national and local, have been quick to impose unreasonable accreditation requirements before journalists are allowed to cover, infringing on the prerogative of media houses to assign tasks for their personnel and devaluing press credentials. This has also led to the arbitrary denial of accreditation to media outfits and journalists such as the alternative press.

While safety concerns admittedly underpin the shift to “virtual” press briefings, concerns have been raised that this gives less than transparent officials too much opportunity to control information, especially given reports that, in some places, questions are pre-screened.

In the midst of all these, there has been no letup in government efforts to intimidate and silence critical media.

The NUJP has continued to be “red-tagged” by government agencies and officials, accused, without any proof, of supposedly being a “legal front” of the communist rebel movement.

And on May 1, Labor Day, four community journalists and three other media volunteers were among the more than 40 persons arrested by police in Iloilo City after they prevented a caravan to protest the murder of activist Jory Porquia.

This crisis is unprecedented and no one knows when it will end or even begin to ease up.

Amid the uncertainty, the community of independent Filipino journalists should strengthen our unity to protect our ranks and resist efforts to exploit the emergency to clamp down on our fundamental rights and liberties.

Let us reject any attempt to control or impede the free flow of information to the people.

Let us continue to serve the people through our work.

Let us continue to be free.

Mabuhay ang malayang pamamahayag at pagpapahayag!
Mabuhay ang malayang mamamahayag ng Pilipinas!

#WorldPressFreedomDay2020

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.

Rights groups decry harassment of campus journalists

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)

JOINT STATEMENT: “Fake news” provision threatens freedom of the press, expression

We, media organizations, advocates of freedom of the press and of expression, journalists and academics, raise the alarm over the insertion of measures to control free expression in the “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act.”

We refer to Section 6(6), which penalizes “individuals or groups creating, perpetrating, or spreading false information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms, such information having no valid of beneficial effect on the population, and are clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear, or confusion; and those participating in cyber incidents that make us or take advantage of the current crisis situation to prey on the public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails, or other similar acts:”

This provision is tellingly embedded in Section 6, Penalties, which seeks to punish a menu of offenses “with imprisonment of two months or a fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P1 million, or both, such imprisonment and fine at the discretion of the court.”

But the fact is that Section 6(6) seeks to punish people for an offense that, legally, does not even exist.

In effect, the law will leave it up to the government to be the arbiter of what is true or false, a prospect that cannot invite confidence given the fact that many administration officials, including the chief executive, have been sources of disinformation and misinformation.

Even before the measure was signed into law, news reports flagged the Philippine National Police’s formation of a task force that would go against supposed purveyors of “fake news. ”  In Cebu, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia publicly humiliated rapper Brandon Perang for making fun of government efforts against the pandemic on social media. She forced Perang  to “swear” an oath to “obey the law” in front of her and other officials. She also announced the creation of a “special unit” to go after other critics.

While we acknowledge the need to fight disinformation in this time of crisis, we fear the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act will only end up criminalizing free speech. We assert that the best way to fight disinformation is through education and the truth.

In times of crisis, when the swift delivery of accurate information to our people is vital, we need more, not less, independent reporting.

Alas, Section 6(6) and the accreditation requirement imposed on media will result in the opposite, to the detriment of our people.

To the community of independent journalists, let us tighten our ranks and stand firm in opposing any restrictions on the free performance of our duties.

To all freedom-loving Filipinos, stand with us in defending freedom of the press and of expression and your, the people’s, right to know.

Signed by the following media organizations and individuals:

Altermidya – Alternative People’s Media Network
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Center for Community Journalism and Development
College Editors Guild of the Philippines
Concerned Artists of the Philippines
Davao Today
The International Association of Women in Radio and Television – Philippines
Kilab Multimedia
Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI)
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
Rappler
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
Vera Files
Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines
University of the Philippines – College of Mass Communication

Interaksyon Editors
Rosette Adel
Camille Diola
Jeline Malasig

Philstar.com Editors
Jaira Krishelle Balboa
Deni Bernardo
Kristine Bersamina
Gaea Cabico
Ian Cigaral
Jonathan de Santos
Franco Luna
Prinza Magtulis
Dino Maragay
Kristine Joy Patag
Kristofer Purnell
James Relativo
Ratziel San Juan
Matikas Santos
E.C. Toledo

Alan Alegre, Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation
Cong B. Corrales, Associate Editor, Gold Star Daily
Danny Arao, Dept. of Journalism, University of the Philippines Diliman
Noemi L. Dado, blogger
Jimmy Domingo, photojournalist
Inday Espina-Varona
Lisa Garcia, Foundation for Media Alternatives
Bart Guingona, MediaNation
Ma. Diosa Labiste, Dept. of Journalism, University of the Philippines Diliman
Dominic Ligot, Democracy.Net.PH
Ed Lingao
Luz Rimban, Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism
Manny Mogato
Carlos Nazareno, Democracy.Net.PH
John Nery, Columnist, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Marian Pastor Roces, MediaNation
Bernice Soriano, Foundation for Media Alternatives
Lucia Tangi, Dept. of Journalism, University of the Philippines Diliman
Jane Uymatiao, blogger
Tyrone Velez, columnist, SunStar Davao

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.]