The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday slammed the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on the regulator’s order to internet service providers to block 26 websites supposedly affiliated with terrorist groups.
CHR executive director Jacqueline Ann de Guia said the commission has recognized that to address terrorism and to prevent the spread of disinformation both uphold human rights, but “at the same time, access to accurate information allows people to make informed decisions and participate in different affairs, including governance.”
“In this regard, the role of the government, as the prime duty-holder, is to ensure that there is a balance among rights—not treat them as competing values,” she added.
She said a safe environment enables a dignified life. In a June 6 letter, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. noted that the Anti-Terrorism Council issued three resolutions declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front and their central committee members as terrorists and terrorist organizations.
“In this regard, may we request the NTC to issue legal instruments to order Philippine internet service providers to block access to the following websites affiliated to and are supporting these terrorists and terrorist organizations,” he said.
On June 8, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba issued a memorandum, ordering the immediate blocking of websites found by the National Security Council “to be affiliated to and are supporting terrorists and terrorist organizations.
“We caution against censorship or any move similar to it, which harms press freedom and results in a chilling effect that attempts to deter free speech and liberty of association under a democracy,” De Guia said.
“It is thus similarly concerning that the Security and Exchange Commission issued a decision to revoke the operating license of the news organization Rappler and order its shutdown,” she added.
She said the CHR, as the country’s independent national human rights institution will continue to stress the importance of the people’s right to information and free speech, expression, and association.
She said democracy thrives on the free exchange of ideas, including dissent and opposing opinions, that allows everyone to participate in shaping laws and policies for the general welfare of the people.
“We call for the government’s commitment, across its institutions, to respect and uphold human rights as enshrined in our Constitution and international human rights standards,” she noted.
“Silencing criticism and dissent only detracts from our shared goal of nation-building. We reiterate that under a democracy the goal is to balance the respect, promotion, and fulfillment of the rights of all,” she emphasized.