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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Esperon, Pinoy Weekly, and freedom of speech

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“This act of blocking also breaches the freedom of the press which lays out the right of news and media outlets like Pinoy Weekly to deliver news without being controlled by the government.”

A few days before the transition to the new administration, we witnessed the Outgoing National Security Adviser, Hermogenes Esperon Jr,, order the blocking of access to 28 websites.

Part of this is Pinoy Weekly’s website together with sites of other alternative news outlets and progressive groups. According to Esperon’s order, the organizations needed to be blocked for supporting and working with terrorists.

For the column this week, I wanted to discuss why this accusation is alarming and why it is essential to question it.

First, why is it alarming? Essentially, the blocking of the websites is a violation of our freedom of speech; this freedom allows us to share our opinions without censorship like I do as a columnist.

This act of blocking also breaches the freedom of the press which lays out the right of news and media outlets like Pinoy Weekly to deliver news without being controlled by the government.

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It is even more alarming that in the order, they have chosen to suppress the voices of progressive groups and marginalized sectors who only hope to be heard.

The red-tagging that is blatant in Esperon’s order makes it even more dangerous.

Not only is freedom of speech being violated, members of the accused and red-tagged organizations are also imperiled.

How many Filipinos have been endangered because of red-tagging? How many ordinary citizens have been harmed after being called terrorists because they are fighting for a cause?

Second, why is it essential to question Esperon’s order?

Aside from the dangers of red-tagging, evidence supporting the accusation that the blocked organizations are involved with terrorists is unclear.

Let’s look at the definition of terrorism: terrorism is the use of violence and fear on civil members of society to push for a particular political agenda.

Now, as I also have a column in Pinoy Weekly called “Dekanong Makabayan.” Let us try to evaluate it to see if it supports or spreads terrorism.

The past few months, I have discussed different social issues that affect ordinary Filipinos in that column.

Some of these being social and education inequality, human rights and marginalized sectors like farmers and workers, the courage of teachers, the dangers of red-tagging, the concept of climate justice, and what we need to look out for when it came to the 2022 national elections.

In my Pinoy Weekly column, as a lawyer and teacher, I have always only wanted to share my knowledge about social issues. This way, readers and I alike can understand the situation of our country better, then discern how we can respond to it collectively.

After this evaluation, it appears to be more pertinent to ask where the support for terrorism they accuse us of is.

How does writing for Pinoy Weekly make me a terrorist?

With this, how are members of the other organizations who have been red-tagged terrorists?

The other organizations who have been blocked like Bayan Muna and Bulatlat just aspire to amplify the voices and stories of fellow Filipinos after all.

As ordinary Filipinos who only want our welfare to be considered and made better, this kind of order is alarming, but it is also a reminder that we must stay vigilant.

We must question and respond to these kinds of accusations.

We should not let government officials call those who fight and stand with the masses terrorists.

This may be disturbing but we must keep fighting. As Neil Ambion from Pinoy Weekly puts it, business as usual. We must continue to write about stories and issues experienced by Filipinos.

If those in power refuse to listen, we will listen to one another. We will be the ones who fight. We will be the ones who help each other.

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