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NUJP’s ABS-CBN campaign, Karapatan’s ‘resilient website’ win human rights awards

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and Karapatan won the two top prizes of the 10th Human Rights Pinduteros Choice Awards for their online campaign and presence in the past year.

The NUJP’s Black Friday Online Protest #NoToABSCBNShutdown garnered nearly 39% of votes among 10 finalists in an online poll held by HR Online PH.

The media group held several online rallies after government-imposed coronavirus lockdowns prevented its burgeoning Black Friday protests on the closure of ABS-CBN from being regularly held since the month of March.

Government attacks of the country’s biggest broadcasting corporation and eventual denial of petitions for a new franchise to operate had been the biggest press freedom and labor rights issue in the country this year.

The NUJP started and led national and global Black Friday protests that gathered participation and support from many sectors, organizations and individuals.

NUJP secretary general Dabet Castaneda-Panelo and this reporter, NUJP deputy secretary general, received the glass trophy at the awarding ceremony in Quezon City Monday, November 30.

Castaneda said in an emotional acceptance speech that the recognition is personal as she is an ABS-CBN employee who witnessed how the majority of the 11 thousand employees of the network lost their jobs.

“But the struggle for ABS-CBN is bigger than its 11 thousand employees and the network itself. This is for the people’s right of choice and right to information,” she said.

NUJP secretary general Dabet Castaneda-Panelo with the Pinduteros’ Choice trophy. (Photo by R. Villanueva)

Karapatan for its part dedicated its #HumanRights Pinduteros Choice for Website award to human rights defenders killed under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“This award is dedicated to Ryan Hubilla, Sara Alvarez and all the human rights defenders killed under this government,” Karapatan’s Dindo Roxas said.

Karapatan gathered a whopping 74% of the total votes cast among 10 finalists in the online poll.

“Karapatan’s website had been taken down by hackers, is under constant attack, but it just simply refuses to be denied,” HR Online PH said.

Karapatan’s Dindo Roxas dedicated the honor to fallen human rights defenders.
(Photo by R. Villanueva)

The organizers said nominees were chosen from most-clicked items per category posted on the HRonlinePH.com site while the winners are those with the most number of hits based on WordPress.com statistics from November 2019 to November 2020.

The 10th Human Rights Pinduteros Choice Awards was themed #ShoutOut sa mga hindi natakot magpahayag ng makatotohanan, makabuluhan at may pagmamalasakit sa kapwa. (#ShoutOut to those who did not fear voicing out truth, meaningfulness and concern for others.)

The awarding ceremony was part of the Freedom Of Expression Conference (Freexp.Con4) organized by several human rights organizations and advocates such as the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity (iDEFEND), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Alyansa Tigil Mina, among others.

It was supported by the British Embassy Manila.

This year’s winners include:

  • Off-the-Shelf Category: SOLIDAGRO – Anto sa yugto ng pandemiko,  Collected by Rene Boy Abiva
  • Video Category: iDEFEND – Lumabas Tayo! Lumaban Tayo!
  • Featured Site Category: Ateneo de Manila University Human Rights Center – Online Legal Counseling
  • Event Category: PAHRA and iDEFEND – “Human rights groups, grassroots activists and civil society organizations launch protest marking the anniversary of the declaration of martial law”
  • Network Post Category: Teachers Dignity Coalition – [Statement] “CHR Spokesperson, Atty Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the arrest of Cebu film writer Maria Victoria Beltran”
  • Blogsite Category: Norman Novio – nanovio.blogspot.com (Minding Mindoro and Beyond)
  • Right Up Category: Prof. Jose Mario De Vega – “The coronavirus is the monstrous product of the present nefarious global system”

A special award was given to the Mulat Short Film Project of Far Eastern University’s Department of Communication that encourages the production of films on human rights.

HR Online PH said its Human Rights Pinduteros Choice Awards started a decade ago to encourage organizations and advocates to engage others on human rights through the social media.

“This is our contribution for the defense and promotion of a human rights culture among Filipinos,” the group said.

The awarding ceremony serves as build up event for the annual International Human Rights Day on December 10. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Philippine Army soldiers kill journalist in Masbate

MANILA — A journalist was shot and killed by government soldiers in Milagros, Masbate, last Saturday, November 14.

Ronnie Villamor, 50, a stringer for local tabloid Dos Kantos Balita was killed by troops led by a certain 2nd Lieutenant Maydim Jomadil after covering an aborted survey of a disputed property.

Villamor was also a pastor of the Life in Christ Church.

A spot report on the incident by Milagros police chief Major Aldrin Rosales quoted army troops as saying they were investigating the presence of five armed men in Barangat Matanglad who fled at their approach.

The army and the police said Villamor was a New People’s Army (NPA) member who allegedly drew a firearm when ordered to stop his motorcycle at a Scout Platoon-2nd Infantry Battalion Philippine Army checkpoint.

The victim’s colleagues however disputed the soldiers’ version of the incident, saying there was no encounter between the government soldiers and the NPA.

Masbate Tri-Media President Dadong Briones Sr. told Dos Kantos Balita the victim just came from a coverage of an aborted survey of a piece of land being disputed by certain Dimen family and businessman Randy Favis.

Favis’s goons reportedly prevented the survey from proceeding, prompting the surveyors to return to mainland Bicol and the victim to proceed to his brother Arthur’s house at Barangay Bonbon.

Dos Kantos Balita reported that witnesses saw army troopers flagging down the victim and, after being identified by Favis’s men Johnrey Floresta and Eric Desilva, shot Villamor dead.

In a statement, the Masbate chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the killing of their colleague and demands a thorough investigation of the incident.

“The killing of our colleague…at the hands of government soldiers sends a chilling message to us journalists not only here in Masbate but all throughout the country,” the victims’ colleagues said.

Villamor is the fourth journalist murdered in Masbate after Joaquin Briones (March 13, 2017), Antonio Castillo (June 12, 2009), and Nelson Nedura (December 2, 2003), the NUJP said.

“He (Villamor) is the 19th slain during the Duterte administration and the 191st since 1986. He was also the second killed this month, only four days after NUJP member Virgilio Maganes, who had survived an attempt on his life in 2016, was shot dead outside his home in Villasis town, Pangasinan,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Badoy ‘heartless, shameless, irresponsible, despicable’ in red-tagging CNN Philippines amid calamity–NUJP

Despicable, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said of Lorraine Marie Badoy’s red-tagging of CNN Philippines during a calamity.

Reacting to the Cabinet undersecretary’s insinuation that alleged communist fronts exist inside the media company, the NUJP said Badoy “is totally irresponsible and endangers our colleagues in CNN, not to mention the members of LFS (League of Filipino Students) and our affiliate, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP).”

In a post on her Facebook account, Badoy takes CNN to task for retweeting an announcement from the League of Filipino Students, which she labels “a known front of the terrorist CPP NPA NDF,” that it is accepting donations for victims of typhoons Rolly and Ulysses.

She then asks: “Wassup, CNN? Is it true there is a LFS/CEGP cell inside CNN?”

Badoy, Presidential Communications Operations Office undersecretary for new media and spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, is among the Duterte government’s most notorious red-baiters.

Local and international human rights organizations have repeatedly warned the government that red-tagging often lead to unjust arrests or, worse, assassinations of government critics.

“By making baseless claims without any proof and casting blanket accusations against a media outfit and, yes, a youth organization, this unelected government official is, in fact, violating two basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution, due process and freedom of association,” the NUJP said in a statement Saturday.

The media group added Badoy actually vilified and practically seeks the criminalization of an act of charity at a time when millions of Filipinos desperately need all the help they can get.

“Such heartless behavior is a disgrace not only to her office but to the whole government she supposedly serves,” the NUJP said.

CNN Philippines did not take Badoy’s apparent slander sitting down, either, strongly objecting to her “misplaced and baseless allusion” that some of its employees have links to underground groups.

The company said in a statement that the LFS is just one of the many groups that have launched a relief drive for the victims of recent typhoons that include Caritas Manila, Kaya Natin PH, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, student organizations from UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Los Banos and Ateneo de Manila University, among others.

“We believe the back-to-back storms that ravaged our country serve as an opportunity to rise up from the ruins and practice the Filpino spirit of ‘Bayanihan’ in whatever capacity we can, rather than foray into red-tagging that will only sow disunity,” CNN Philippines said.

“We continue to update the list to give as many options for kindhearted individuals because we believe our suffering countrymen need all the help they can get in this time of calamities,” the company added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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Disclosure: Reporter is NUJP deputy secretary general and Kodao is a NUJP chapter.

Gunmen shoot Pangasinan reporter dead

A journalist who survived an assassination attempt in November 2016 was shot dead at his home in Villasis, Pangasinan this morning, November 10.

Virgilio “Vir” Maganes, a reporter of local newspaper Northern Watch and commentator of local radio station DWPR, was shot at 6:30 AM in front of his residence at Sitio Licsab, Barangay San Blas.

A police spot report said Maganes was about to enter their residential compound when the killers fired at him six times, killing him immediately.

Maganes was hit on the head and other parts of the body.

In 2016, Maganes survived a gun attack while on board a tricycle and was wounded on his torso.

He played dead as the tricycle careened on the side of the road but saw his assailant put a hand-written placard near him accusing him of being a drug personality.

The placard read: “Drug pusher huwag pamarisan”, in what the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said may be seen as an attempt to divert attention from the real motive for the slay try.

Maganes denied ever being involved in illegal drugs.

The victim was a known critic of local politicians he accused in his reports and radio programs of being illegal gambling operators.

In its alert, the NUJP said Maganes would be the 18th journalist murdered during the Rodrigo Duterte administration and the 190th since 1986.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security told Kodao that it has dispatched investigators to Pangasinan to look into Maganes’ killing.

The victim turned 62 years old last November 7. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Journalists, lawyers slam Nasino’s ‘cruel and barbaric’ BJMP guards

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the personnel of the Bureau of Jail and Management and Penology (BJMP) who tried to prevent political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino from being interviewed by reporters at her infant daughter’s wake in Manila yesterday, October 15.

Four BJMP escorts surrounded Nasino to block her from cameras and later attempted to drag her back to jail in violation of the four-hour furlough granted by the court.

The incident caused a commotion inside the funeral parlor as Nasino’s lawyers prevented the jail guards from snatching the grieving mother.

In a statement, the NUJP said Nasino’s visit to her deceased daughter was clearly a matter of public interest as it is part of an issue that touches on some very basic human rights, “particularly that of a mother deprived of the opportunity to nurture her child and, failing that, to comfort her and bid her goodbye in her final moments.”

“The BJMP personnel who trampled on the rights of both the news personnel covering the event and of Ms. Nasino, whose incarceration does not deprive her of the right to free expression were either ignorant of media’s role in a democracy or did not care, not surprising given how the head of state himself has shown nothing but contempt for a free and critical press,” the NUJP said.

The group demanded an immediate and transparent investigation into the incident and for sanctions to be leveled against both the unit commander and the personnel who obeyed what the NUJP described was an illegal order.

Bulatlat’s video of the commotion caused by BJMP guard at Baby River Nasino’s wake.

Cruelty and Barbarity Without Compare

Nasino’s lawyers said the BJMP also lied when they said before Judge Paulino Gallegos of RTC Manila Branch 47 that they lacked the personnel who can guard Nasino overnight and thus asked that her furlough be shortened from three days to six hours.

The lawyers said about 47 jail and police officers guarded Nasino from the Manila City Jail to the funeral parlor and were armed with high powered firearms in what they said was deceptive overkill.

They also complained that the guards flanked Nasino wherever she went and refused to let her speak with her family and counsel or view her baby in private.

The lawyers, members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said the guards came looking like they were poised for battle even as they knew Nasino would not risk the chance to bury her child by attempting an escape.

“With their sheer number, the guards were the ones who overcrowded the wake. They also did not observe social distancing,” they said.

“It is clear that Ina’s escorts came to scoff at her grief by destroying the solemnity of the funeral with tension, fear, and intimidation. They arrested her on fake charges and caused the early separation of her baby in jail. What is another act of cruelty and injustice?” they said.

Atty. Ma Sol Taule, one of Nasino’s lawyers, said they know the women jail guards who attempted to snatch Nasino away were just following orders but expressed sadness the BJMP personnel did not understand the grief of a fellow woman who has lost a child.

“Hindi kami pumayag. Masyado ng maraming pasakit ang dinanas ni Reina Mae at ng kanyang anak sa kamay ng gubyernong ito,” she said. (We did not let it happen. Reina Mae and her child have suffered too much pain at the hands of this government.) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Petisyon kontra-Terror Law inihain ng mga mamamahayag at artista

Inihain ang ika-13 petisyon kontra sa kontrobersyal na Anti-Terrorism Law kaninang umaga, Hulyo 23 sa Korte Suprema. Pinangunahan ito ng National Union of Journalists of the Philippines at Concerned Artists of the Philippines.

Hinihiling nila na ideklarang labag sa batas ang Anti-Terror Law dahil sa mga probisyon nito na napakalawak na depinisyon patungkol sa terorismo. Gayundin magiging sandata din ito para sikilin ang sinumang nais magpahayag ng pagtutol lalo na sa gobyerno. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Tears, rage over massive loss of jobs at the Kapamilya network

Ma, hanggang August 31 na lang po ako sa ABS-CBN,” Jon Montesa, TVPlus brand communications manager, told his mother upon learning of his retrenchment last Thursday. (Mom, my ABS-CBN employment ends on August 31.)

Like Montesa, hundreds of other workers had to inform their families their worst fears as workers of the Philippines’ biggest media network had come true. Throughout the day, tears flowed in the many offices inside the ABS-CBN compound as unit heads delivered the sad news to their colleagues.  

“In my nearly five years in the network, I never thought I will say this to my family. They not only took away our jobs. Our dreams and future, these are the things they took away from us,” Montesa said in Filipino. “I’ve worked so hard for this. I did not get it easily. But it’s gone in an instant. You are inhumane!” he added, blaming the 70 legislators who voted to deny the Philippines’ media network a new franchise to continue operating last July 10.

Montesa’s FB post that has garnered thousands of reactions and shares as well as hundreds of comments.

It is not only ordinary employees like Montesa who are being given their dismissal slips. Even those who have been on millions of television screens for decades and expected to survive the bloodbath of jobs have been retrenched. Award-winning broadcast journalist and news presenter Ces Oreña-Drilon twitted:

Thousand more are expected to be dismissed until August as the company scrambles to stop the financial hemorrhage it had been suffering since the Philippine government issued a cease and desist order on ABS-CBN’s operations. The network is reported to be losing around Php30 million a day since May 5 but with its franchise denied by Congress, it could no longer keep all of its more than 11,000 workers. “We should consider ourselves lucky if 50% of us is retained until the end of the year,” a source told Kodao.

MOR 101.9 disc jock Czarina “DJ Chacha” Balba said is not only at the network’s corporate headquarters in Quezon City that the retrenchment is ongoing. “There are many MOR radio stations in the entire Philippines. It is not only here in Manila that colleagues are losing jobs. Yesterday, our bosses informed us the MOR network only has until August 31,” she said, explaining there are more than a dozen MOR radio stations nationwide.

Balba revealed this is her first job after college that she considers her “first and forever love.” She said it is not all about her salary but the despair of leaving what she considers her home in the past 12 years. “On top of that, you would no longer be working with your friends nor would you be allowed to visit them because it is prohibited (because of the pandemic),” she grieved.

The loss of income is harder for most employees on top of the bleak prospects of finding new employment while the coronavirus pandemic rages worldwide. An ABS-CBN employee told Kodao she is now watching YouTube videos on soap-making, thinking of joining the online selling community once retrenched.

Upon learning of Congress’ rejection of ABS-CBN’s franchise, employee Jonathan Samson announced he is selling his beloved collection of scooters.

(Reason For Selling: I no longer have a job. Closed by the government),” Samson posted on his Facebook account.

Broadcast journalist Adrian Ayalin is not among those dismissed this week, but it does not insulate him from uncertainty and the pain.



ABS-CBN Supervisory Employees Union president Raul de Asis lays the massive loss of jobs squarely on President Rodrigo Duterte’s feet. “[A]aminin ko sa lahat na talagang ibinoto ko ang Pangulong Duterte. ‘Yung mga kasamahan natin sa probinsiya, sa RNG (regional network group), ibinoto din siya…Talagang iniisip nila na ibinoto natin ‘tong presidenteng ito, na gaganda ang buhay natin lahat, giginhawa ang buhay natin lahat. Pero hindi alintana na ganito na ‘yung mangyayari sa aming lahat na sumuporta sa kaniya,” he said. (I admit I voted for President Duterte, along with our colleagues from the RNG. We thought our lives will be better if we vote for him. We never thought he will do this to those who supported him.)

Ito ba ang kapalit ng aming pagboto sa kaniya? Kikitilin ang aming hanapbuhay? Gugutumin ang aming pamilya? Hindi na kami makatulong sa aming mga kamag-anak at kapatid at magulang? Sobrang masakit po,” he added. (Is this what we get for voting him? Killing our jobs? Making our families go hungry? We will no longer be able to help our relatives, siblings and parents. This is beyond painful.)

In a speech before soldiers in Jolo, Sulu this week, Duterte admitted wanting the network closed. But even before the network’s franchise bid was formally rejected, Duterte’s close ally Senator Ronald dela Rosa already warned that ABS-CBN employees should start looking for other jobs. “Hanap ng ibang trabaho para mabuhay, magsumikap (Look for other jobs, work harder),” he said in an interview with reporters last July 9.

The shock of losing jobs and the shutdown of their company prods employees to react in various ways. Balba asked: “[M]ay iba pa pong department ang ABS-CBN na stop operations muna. So ipagdasal niyo po ang ibang empleyado na kagaya naming lahat.” (Other departments will stop operations. So, pray for the other employees who would be jobless like us.)

Oreña-Drilon for her part struck hopeful: “Babangon din ang mga #kapamilya. (We will rise up.) This may be our darkest hour. But don’t lose hope,” she said.

NUJP photo

Many, like Montesa, however, have held nightly noise barrages at ABS-CBN’s Sgt. Esguerra gate since Monday, heavily filling the air with the banging of gongs, clanging of makeshift noisemakers and sounding horns of cars driving around the network compound in a two-hour motorcade. On Saturday, they will also participate in a nationwide noise barrage to denounce the network’s shutdown, with several ABS-CBN RNG participating. In Metro Manila, motorcades from Makati and Manila cities will converge at the ABS-CBN compound for another protest activity. Enraged, they vow to make those responsible for their uncertain future pay. “Ako, #KapamilyaForever. Kayo, hindi forever. #ManiningilAngKasaysayan,” Montesa said. (I am Family Forever. You are not forever. History will make you pay.) # — Raymund B. Villanueva (with research by Jo Maline D. Mamangun)

‘Para kanino ang pagpapasara sa ABS-CBN?’

Ito ang tanong ng mga lumahok sa isinagawang motorcade at rali noong Lunes, Hulyo 6, ng mga nananawagan sa bagong prangkisa ng ABS-CBN.

Sa huling araw ng pagdinig ng Kongreso sa mga petisyon para sa pagpapatuloy na operasyon ng kumpanya, nagpunta ang mga empleyado at kanilang mga taga-suporta sa Kamara de Representante upang manawagan na huwag tuluyang isara ito.

Sa pangunguna ng National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, nagdaos ng programa sa kahabaan ng Batasan Avenue ang Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Makabayan Bloc, SENTRO, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Photojournalism Center of the Philippines, Free the Artist Movement, National Association of Broadcast Unions, at mga unyon ng manggagawa ng ABS-CBN, IBC-13 at GMA-7.

Philippines media faces ‘eternal threat of punishment’ after cyber libel convictions

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.

Targeting Rappler

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.

A protester calls for ‘mass testing, not mass silencing’ at a rally held on June 4, 2020, the day the Philippine Congress passed the anti-terror bill. Photo by Kodao Productions, a content partner of Global Voices

Curtailing dissent

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.

AERIAL SHOT: 5,000 human rights advocates and activists observe physical distancing as they commemorate Philippine Independence Day and hold a ‘Grand Mañanita’ against the Duterte government’s Anti-Terrorism Bill today, June 12, on University Avenue, University of the Philippines- Diliman, Quezon City. Photo and caption by Kodao Productions, a content partner of Global Voices

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)

Resist the further erosion of our rights

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines bewails the filing of another cyber libel complaint against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa over a tweet she posted in February 2019.

The suit brought against Ressa by Wilfredo Keng, the same complainant in the cyber libel case for which she and former writer-researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. were convicted, this time cites a February 15, 2019 Tweet showing screenshots of a 2002 Philstar.com article on the businessman’s alleged links to the murder of a former Manila councilor.

This article, which Philstar took down on February 16, or a day after Ressa’s tweet, because “the camp of Mr. Wilfredo Keng raised the possibility of legal action,” was one of the sources cited in the article over which the first suit was filed.

As grave as the implications the conviction of Ressa and Santos hold not only for the media but for every Filipino who uses the Internet and social media, we fear this complaint, if the State further perverts the law, could spell doom for freedom of expression online.

To our colleagues in the community of independent journalists, let us remain vigilant and continue to resist all attempts to intimidate and silence us.

To the people, we call on you to stand with us. We cannot afford to lose freedom of the press because it belongs to you, the people we serve. It is this freedom that allows us to serve your right to know by delivering you the timely and accurate information you need to decide on your individual and collective futures.

To the State, we ask: Do you really believe you can continue to subvert the rule of law and further erode our already diminished rights and freedoms without an accounting?

The NUJP National Directorate