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Thomasian publications, media groups condemn attacks on press freedom

Student publications and media organizations of the University joined the calls to defend press freedom in the midst of the government’s ‘attacks’ on journalists and the media.

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Several publications and media organizations of the University lambasted the government’s “attacks on press freedom” in a statement on Thursday, following the ban of a Rappler reporter from Malacañang.

“We, student publications, writers and media organizations of the University of Santo Tomas, strongly manifest our unity with other media organizations in condemning the Duterte administration’s efforts to stifle press freedom in the country,” the statement titled “Uphold the truth! Defend press freedom!” read.

It added: “In these crucial times when our freedoms are being attacked and threatened, we, campus journalists, writers, and media practitioners, must stand and fight to defend our rights.”

Rappler reporter and Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) member Pia Ranada was prevented from entering the New Executive Building in Malacañang on Tuesday morning, Feb. 20. A day after, Ranada said she was informed by Malacañang that she could no longer enter the entire palace complex.

In a press conference, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque revealed that it was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who ordered his officials to ban Ranada and Rappler from covering his events in the Malacañang.

Nonetheless, the MPC stated that Ranada would remain a member unless the Court of Appeals upholds the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruling on Rappler’s registration.

Last month, the SEC revoked Rappler’s certificate of registration, sparking protests from various media groups, militant organizations, and politicians (READ: Media groups protest attacks on press freedom).

The groups, moreover, expressed concern over the President’s “repeated” disregard for the law.

“It is alarming that President Rodrigo Duterte himself—who has repeatedly shown contempt for human rights, rule of law, and checks and balances—is now going after the free press to silence and intimidate critics of his administration,” the document stated.

In his second State of the Nation Address, the President also attacked other major media outfits such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN, accusing them of being biased in their reports about him. The statement also cited the blocking of the license renewal of the 54 radio stations of the Catholic Media Network, which is owned by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders declared the country the deadliest country in Asia for journalists, with a record of four journalists killed last year.

Other reported killings of journalists were also recorded by local media groups such as the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in the first 16 months of the Duterte administration, including death threats from local officials and pro-administration bloggers.

The statement also condemned threats on campus publications, particularly the military surveillance and red-tagging of campus journalists in Bicol, and Mocha Uson’s tirades on Ateneo de Manila University’s Matanglawin after it lampooned Uson’s blog in 2016.

Furthermore, the groups stated that they “will continue to serve the people and stand for freedom, democracy, and most importantly, veritas: The truth.”

The signatories of the statement include Amierielle Anne Bulan, editor-in-chief of The Varsitarian; Philip Jamilla, executive editor of TomasinoWeb; Noelle Aetana Malagkit, chief communications officer of the Tomasian Media Circle and Talents; Joshua Carl Palomera, president of the Thomasian Writers Guild; Mikkah Factor, editor-in-chief of The Flame; Mary Joy Abalos, editor-in-chief of La Stampa Tomasino; Ristel Mae Tagudando, editor-in-chief of The Purple Gazette; Patricia Lee Yanga, president of the UST Journalism Society; and Neal Andreu Tayco, president of the UST Literary Society.

University officials have not expressed their stand regarding the matter as of press time.—M. G. Parlade

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Counter military, police propaganda-based disinformation—veteran journalist

Rappler managing editor urged aspiring journalists Friday, Oct. 23, to fight propaganda-based disinformation caused by law enforcers.

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Photo grabbed from Rappler.com

Rappler managing editor urged aspiring journalists Friday, Oct. 23, to fight propaganda-based disinformation caused by law enforcers.

Glenda Gloria, a journalism alumna of the University, said that the military and the police do not seem to understand the role of the media as the fourth estate because of their “very utilitarian” view of information. 

“They use information as propaganda because they think it has to achieve something for the organization, whether that means further securing the country or defeating the enemies of the state,” Gloria said in a fact-checking webinar. 

According to her, the attempt of law enforcers to speed up their propaganda is due to the tremendous pressure to eliminate insurgency before President Duterte steps down in 2020. 

“The biggest factor behind the politicization of the armed forces is the commander-in-chief. Whatever the President wants will determine the political influence of the military,” she said. 

Gloria reminded aspiring journalists that no war has been won using propaganda as a primary tool and to “continue the fight against lies” that are being weaponized for the mass destruction of the country.

The webinar titled, “Propaganda, State Secrets and Other Issues in the Security Sector,” was hosted by MovePH, the civic engagement arm of Rappler. Vhey Tapia and Raheema Velasco 

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Flatten curve to revive economy, solon says

The government should remain in its goal of flattening the curve to revive the economy, a lawmaker advised Saturday, Oct. 24.

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Photo courtesy of the UST Central Student Council

The government should remain in its goal of flattening the curve to revive the economy, a lawmaker advised Saturday, Oct. 24.

“Klaro naman na hindi natin kailangan pumili between saving lives and livelihood. Hindi na tama na ang trade-off between the two…[b]ecause we can save both,” Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo said. 

Quimbo, who is also an economist, stressed the importance of evidence-based policymaking and monitoring, as well as business continuity and job projection interventions. 

The solution and interventions included grants for technical assistance, subsidies for COVID-19 testing, and wage subsidies with retention clauses. 

“We can afford to rise, pero dapat balansehin so as not to fall into a debt crisis… [b]ecause as we all know napakadali po to become poor pero napakahirap mag-exit sa poverty. Importanteng importante ang datos,” Quimbo said.

Quimbo also laid out the framework for the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines (ARISE), which she is one of the principal authors. 

Under the ARISE, a comprehensive plan will be followed to address the pandemic-brought economic crisis with a proposed P1.3 trillion budget over three years.

In the bill still pending in the Senate, Quimbo specified transitional, financial, sectoral, and structural support that, according to her, were the basis of the framework for the “mini-version” of the Bayanihan 2 that is in effect until the end of this year.

‘Reform the economy’

IBON Foundation executive director Sonny Africa urged the government to “reform and shape” an economy that benefits everyone. 

According to Africa, the government’s current response is focused on a “very artificial poverty reduction” by granting cash transfers without addressing the structure that continues poverty.

“The government is very keen on infrastructure to promote economic growth, but the Philippines is so lacking in economic fundamentals as it uses infrastructure as a short-cut to growth,” he said.

Africa also criticized that while the government is focused on infrastructure development, decades of neoliberal health privatization eroded  the public health system, which worsened the mortality rate even pre-pandemic.

The webinar “EkonDisyon: Philippine Economic Recession and COVID-19” is a part of the MulaTalakayan organized by the University’s Central Student Council. 

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Tourism recovery to revamp economic sectors, officials urge

Tourism officials stressed the importance of a responsible and “new normal-ready” recovery in the tourism sector amid gradual easing of health protocols in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Photo courtesy of the UST Research Center for Social Sciences & Education

Tourism officials stressed the importance of a responsible and “new normal-ready” recovery in the tourism sector amid gradual easing of health protocols in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Officer Alfonsus Tesoro called for sustainable and strategic recovery efforts to support and revamp economic sectors.

“Tuloy-tuloy dapat ang pag-conduct ng tourism site assessment and planning kasama ang iba’t-ibang stakeholders from the national government agencies, provincial government offices, and the private sector,” Tesoro said in a webinar, Thursday, Oct. 23. 

According to Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes, a survey conducted in Eastern Visayas showed that 66 percent of the respondents admitted that health risks affected their decision to travel, while 80 percent are now eager to visit tourism sites within the region only. 

“This gives us an idea of what tourism activities we should prioritize when we reopen our [tourism] sites. A large majority expect health and safety protocols in place, there should be value for money, and that fun activities will still be offered even under the ‘new normal,’” she said.

Tiopes added that despite the steady reopening of the tourism sector, health protocols would still be strictly employed to ensure safety of tourists and residents. 

The webinar titled, “Philippine Tourism Development and COVID-19 Pandemic: Recovery through Sustainable Development,” was spearheaded by the University’s College of Tourism and Hospitality Management in partnership with the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines, Inc., and co-organized by the UST Research Center for Social Sciences and Education. Paolo Alejandrino 

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