“The funny thing is they are still very much in existence, doing what they do best—That is to criticize the administration, or whoever does not subscribe to their platform”
Last week, the National Telecommunications Commission ordered internet service providers to immediately block access to websites linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front and its alleged affiliates following the request of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.
Esperon’s request, sought to prohibit access to websites that are directly linked to the CPP-NPA-NDF.
These are the National Democratic Front of the Philippines site, the official publication of NDF; and the website of CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, a designated terrorist under Anti-Terrorism Council Resolution 17 issued in 2021.
Aside from the websites directly linked to the underground organizations, Esperon also requested the NTC to block online access to several independent media websites such as Bulatlat and progressive groups like Save our Schools Network, UMA Pilipinas, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, and Pamalakaya Pilipinas, saying said media organizations and groups are “affiliated to and are supporting these terrorists and terrorist organizations.”
“They have established pervasive online presence through their website that they continually use to publish propaganda and misinformation campaigns in order to malign the Philippine government, recruit new members, and solicit funds from local and international sources,” Esperon’s letter to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba read.
Included in the list of websites Esperon seeks to be blocked are: NDFP, NDF, Jose Maria Sison, Philippine Revolution Web Central, Bulatlat, Hiyaw, PRWC Newsroom, Revolutionary Council of Trade Unions, Compatriots-Revolutionary Organization of Overseas Filipino and their Families, Save our Schools Network;
UMA Pilipinas, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Pamalakaya Pilipinas, AMIHAN National Federation of Peasant Women, BAYAN, Arkibong Bayan, International League of People Struggle, Pinoy Weekly, Counter Punch, International Action Center, Monthly Review, People’s March, Taga-Ilog News, Partisa-News, and People Resist News.
Expectedly, Leftist organizations and their media allies and sympathizers were quick to cry foul, claiming the NTC order sends a chilling effect to media practitioners as it restricts press freedom.
Chilling effect and press freedom restriction. I have been reading that for the longest time. When Rappler’s Maria Ressa was convicted of the crime of cyber libel filed by a businessman, these people also raised the chilling effect vis-à-vis press freedom restrictions mantra.
The same thing happened when the Security and Exchange Commission revoked Rappler’s registration after having been found out to have violated the Constitution and Anti-Dummy Law.
They parroted the same line when Congress denied ABS-CBN’s application for a renewal of its franchise after having been found out to have committed several violations in the conditions stipulated in its franchise, including the same offense committed by Rappler regarding foreign investment.
The funny thing is they are still very much in existence, doing what they do best. That is to criticize the administration, or whoever does not subscribe to their platform.
In fact, in the last elections, they were very much active in demonizing Partido Federal ng Pilipinas standard bearer, former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., delivering fake news and raising unfounded apprehensions in the event Marcos wins.
Well, unfortunately for them, despite their massive campaign against him, and praising their preferred candidate to high heavens (literally), BBM emerged as the victor.
Nothing has changed in their orientation and the way they handle their business.
So where exactly is their trepidation of chilling effect in relation to press freedom restriction coming from?
The imagination of these people is too fertile beyond comprehension they can easily concoct basis for fear among the people when they themselves cannot claim they have experienced.
Of course they can easily say it’s different this time as there are actual websites ordered closed. But what have these got to do with them?
The websites ordered closed were either directly under the control of the CPP, or outlets of news emanating from underground organizations.
Either they openly advocate armed revolution, or turn a blind eye on the excesses of the armed groups, to the extent of justifying them.
The State has an inherent right to defend itself. And that’s what it did when NTC ordered the closure of the said websites.
As a media practitioner, I have also been critical of the administration.
But never did I subscribe to this press freedom restriction thing as I have never been censured. That is because I never advocated armed means to overthrow the government I am critical of.
In fact, in 2012, at the height of the impeachment trial of the then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, I was invited to a press conference inside Hacienda Luisita all by myself.
That was after I wrote an article linking the decision of the Corona-led SC to uphold the decision of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council, invalidating the stock distribution option, used by the Cojuangcos to exempt their 15,000-hectare sugar estate from being subjected to agrarian reform.
One night, my former editor from the paper I used to write for, Chito Lozada, gave me a ring asking my permission if he could share my number to one Mike de Quiros who was to invite me for the press briefing, which I acceded to.
De Quiros called me up and gave me the details of the press briefing – the meet up time was 9:00 am the next day at Centris in Quezon City where I would be picked up by someone, whose name he would be furnishing me later.
Everything seemed alright except when he said I would be the only media man being invited.
I called up Chito and informed him of the set-up. Right then and there, Chito decided not to send me to the said presscon, as both of us sensed something irregular.
Imagine being invited to a press briefing in the middle of Hacienda Luisita all by your lonesome? What are we to deduce then?
Afterwards, I was slapped with a P250-million libel suit by a director of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office who was appointed by former President Noynoy Aquino despite having pending cases in court.
What’s puzzling is that I was not the only one who wrote the article.
In both instances, I did not cry I was being harassed.
That my cases are manifestations of press freedom restrictions enough to send a chilling effect on anyone critical of the Aquino administration.
And where are these people crying those issues now? My cases were actual experience and yet not one of these people came to my defense.
Maybe because they were in cahoots with the former regime and the outgoing and incoming administrations happen to be their sworn enemies. The basis must have been concocted by their fertile imagination.
My request to them is: don’t drag the entire media industry to their make-believe apprehensions.
We are still free to write what we choose in the same manner these people are still free to criticize whoever they want to criticize as long as they don’t call or support any call for an armed revolution.
Please stop crying wolf.