The Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Saturday said the National Telecommunications Commission does not have the authority to block news websites tagged as having links to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front.
“To take down the websites is to muzzle their owners. Such a drastic move can’t be anchored on statements that in court would be treated as hearsay,” the IBP said in a statement.
The group said NTC’s decision to restrict access to news websites based on the request of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. was a “shortcut” and a “drastic” move.
‘NTC…”Neither may it extend the scope of the Anti-Terrorism Council’s designation order to ‘affiliates’ at the barest invocation of terrorism,” the IBP said.
“The letter-request, bereft of legal basis, only serves to embarrass the outgoing administration…The Supreme Court has already affirmed the constitutionality of [Anti-Terrorism Act’s] designation process.
The NSC is encouraged to use the fruits of this victory and file the proper cases and requests for designation instead of resorting tocensorial shortcuts.”
The NTC order covered almost 30 websites, including those of alternative media Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly.
Esperon earlier defended his request to have the websites blocked, which he said have sowed “enmity and discord” through misinformation to the CPP-NPA-NDF, which the government has declared as terrorist groups.
“Misinformation remains to be one of the nation’s greatest enemies and is in fact a powerful tool used by the communist terrorist group to sow enmity and discord – dividing Filipinos from objectivity and truth,” Esperon said, after his decision drew heavy fire from human rights groups and leftist lawmakers.
Esperon pointed out that upholding and promoting the truth is a national security responsibility imbued with public interest.
He said some websites like the independent Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly have been using their platforms to spread information on causes important to communist ideology.
“We cannot simply turn a blind eye to the fact that they have actively supported organizations affiliated with the CPP-NPA-NDF,” Esperon said.
Both Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly have condemned the move to block their websites as an affront to freedom of speech and of expression.