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Colmenares: Duterte is a failure as a President

Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares slammed President Duterte’s first three years in office as a scam, described him as a failure as a President on Monday, July 22.

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Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares slammed President Duterte’s first three years in office as a scam, described him as a failure as a President on Monday, July 22.

Colmenares’ accusation came from the President’s campaign promise of defending the country’s sovereignty from China in which the latter now seems to have abandoned after recent happenings surrounding the West Philippine Sea dispute.

“Walang nangyaring pagbabago katulad ng pinangako niya. Ang malala pa, nangako siyang dedepensahan ang ating sovereignty laban sa China pero ang nangyari pinagkanulo niya tayo at pinamigay niya ang teritoryo natin sa Tsina,” Colmenares told TomasinoWeb in an ambush interview in the United People’s SONA.

“So, if there’s anything that [can] describe President Duterte, [it] is that he is a failure as a President,” Colmenares said.

For Colmenares, President Duterte should focus more on the issue on the dispute with China, and completely abandon his submissive foreign policy. 

However, he took note that upholding the country’s sovereignty does not necessarily mean an invitation to war.

“We should continue to search, of course, the peaceful resolution of the South China Sea dispute without surrendering our territorial integrity. Secondly, we should chart an independent foreign policy—hindi maka-Amerikano, hindi maka-Tsino, kundi maka-Pilipino,” he said.

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Int’l forum vs ‘lawfare’ tackles democratic dissent

Lawfare — a portmanteau of “law” and “warfare” — has been coined to represent the pervasive weaponization of law to suppress democratic dissenters. 

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“No to weaponization of law.” This was the call of the 1st International Forum on Lawfare as it tackled various issues and concerns on the use of legal means to oppress dissenters, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. 

Held at the Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium in De La Salle University, the forum highlighted different speakers and reactors on the weaponization of law in media freedom, labor, women, and LGBTQ+ key issues, among others. 

Lawfare — a portmanteau of “law” and “warfare” — has been coined to represent the pervasive weaponization of law to suppress democratic dissenters. 

Moreover, detained Senator Leila de Lima gave her keynote address through her brother Vicente de Lima II, coinciding with her third year in detention. 

Among the speakers of the plenary were ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Atty. Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, and oppositionist Senator Kiko Pangilinan. 

After her speech, Sereno urged the Filipino people in uniting against the enemy: “Kaya ang sinasabi ko: lahat po tayo ay magbuklod-buklod na at lumaban para sa tama. Hindi na po natin dapat hayaan na […] nagkakahati-hati tayo.”

She further stated: “Kaya dapat natin puntahan ang mga pundamental na pagkakaisa natin bilang bayan.” 

“Kailangan manindigan ngayon ang bawat Pilipino. Tama na itong walang katuturan na panggigipit sa kapwa,“ Sereno further expressed. 

Furthermore, Cambodian opposition leader Mu Sochua, who is currently in exile, shared her story of struggle against lawfare in her home country. 

Media freedom

One of the breakout sessions was a panel discussion regarding the current trend and situation of press and media freedom in the Philippines. 

Representatives from multisectoral organizations and media outlets led the panels, like the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, Rappler, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and the Makabayan Bloc from the Congress. 

In an ambush interview with TomasinoWeb, DLSU College of Law Dean Chel Diokno reiterated the importance of mobilization in defending rights, after highlighting the historical perspective of the law as an instrument of oppression. 

“Unang una dapat mag-organize tayo at mag-mobiliza at makiisa tayo sa mga naging biktima ng mga naging paglabag ng mga karapatang pantao,” Diokno said. 

He added that in addressing the repression of the state to the media workers: “Ipaabot dapat natin sa Kongreso at sabihing ‘walang ganyanan.’” he said. 

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Campus journalism enhancement bill filed at House

“Malaki ang role ng mga alternative media na katulad ng campus press. Present ito sa buong bansa at napakamakapangyarihan nito kung magagamit ang kanyang pontensyal doon sa pagtataas ng awareness ng taong bayan tungkol sa mahahalagang isyung panlipunan.”

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Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago led the repeal of the campus journalism law with the filing of Campus Press Freedom Act of the country to uphold genuine campus press freedom.

The Committee on Higher and Technical Education (CHTE) formed a technical working group (TWG) to conduct further studies and consultations on House Bill No. 319 or the Campus Press Freedom Bill which aims to repeal the 28-year-old R.A. 7079 or the Campus Journalism Act (CJA) of 1991.

In her statement during CHTE’s hearing on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020 at the House of Representatives, Elago said the “inherent flaws of the law” resulted in “even more campus press freedom violations that are even more clever and devious in form.”

Elago said that the CJA “legalizes the non-mandatory collection of publication fee, which is considered as the lifeblood” of student publications and “does not make it mandatory for all colleges and universities in the Philippines to establish student publications.”

Elago also noted that the law does not contain a penalty clause for violators, “leaving erring administrators unscathed.”

“School administrators are able to commit offense after offense yet suffer no retribution,” Elago added.

According to Elago, Department of Education, Culture, and Sports (DECS) Order No. 94, Series of 1992’s implementing rules and regulations of CJA “naturally carries the weaknesses of Campus Journalism Act of 1991” as it “cannot lawfully narrow or restrict and expand, broaden, or enlarge the provisions of the law.”

“Kaya ang isinusulong ng Campus Press Freedom Bill ay bigyan ng depenisyon ang technical guidance at tiyakin na talagang ang role ng adviser ay doon lamang sa technical assistance at siguraduhin din na mananagot sa ilalim ng ating batas ang mga lalabag sa campus press freedom,” Elago told TomasinoWeb in an interview.

“Malaki [ang role] ng mga alternative media na katulad ng campus press. Isipin ninyo, present ito sa buong bansa at napakamakapangyarihan nito kung magagamit ang kanyang pontensyal doon sa pagtataas ng awareness ng taong bayan tungkol sa mahahalagang isyung panlipunan,” she said.

College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) National Secretariat Ryan Martinez said that CEGP’s stance on repealing the CJA shows how the law failed to respond and uphold its mandate.

“Bukod pa dito ay nagkaroon pa o umusbong pa ‘yung dami ng campus press freedom violations na masugid na tinatala ng College Editors Guild of the Philippines,” Martinez said.

“Ine-expect natin na mabuo ‘yung technical working group at masali ‘yung CEGP as well as ‘yung college publications sa lungsod man o probinsya na maging consultative na tugunan ‘yung mga pangunahing pangangailangan,” he added.

Martinez also noted the lack of a proper association or group for high school publications that can be utilized to ensure and uphold campus press rights in high school level.

The CJA’s implementation, according to Martinez, seems to be focusing on competitions while the issues troubling students are suppressed. 

“Tila kompetisyon, puwersa lamang para makita kung sino ang mas creative gumawa ng statement, ng mga artikulo. […] Parang ito nga ay pagpapabango ng mga isyu na pang-araw-araw,” Martinez said.

Martinez called for the promotion of critical campus publications which tackles issues directly involving students.

“I-promote natin ‘yung kritikal, aktibo at panibagong campus journalism na tunay na sumasalamin sa issue ng mga students. […] ‘Yung tuition fee, ‘yung mandatory ROTC, ‘yung mga ganoong polisiya na dapat lamanin, dapat malaman ng mga mag-aaral. Tapos maganda kung manggagaling ito sa mga mag-aaral na kasing edad nila,” he said.

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Renew ABS-CBN franchise, media groups urge

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also held a signature campaign in support of the network as its franchise is set to expire this March of 2020.

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Different media groups expressed their demand for the current administration to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN network in a candle lighting ceremony in front of the ELJ Communications Center on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also held a signature campaign in support of the network as its franchise is set to expire this March of 2020.

Among the media groups present in the ceremony are the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and NUJP.

Jon Villanueva President of ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union said that closing a major network is a violation of press freedom and would lead to its employees losing their jobs.

“Maraming mawawalan ng trabaho. Paglabag sa karapatan ng pamamahayag na ito. Pero may pinaplano kaming gawin, balak naming dagdagan ’yung kaganapan ng pagpoprotesta.”

AlterMidya People’s Alternative Network National Coordinator Lilia Padilla, however, feared that one of the implications of this non-renewal is the stifling of press freedom, especially to community, independent journalists.

“Ang fear namin, if the administration can do this to a big network, like [ABS-CBN], what more to community journalists? Kung kaya palang kitilin ang press freedom at ang right namin to operate,” she said.

Moreover, CEGP National Secretariat Ryan Martinez reiterated the “cascading effects” of Duterte’s attack on press freedom in a separate interview with TomasinoWeb.

“Magpoprovide ito ng precedent, ng cascading effects. Kung papaano ide-define ng administration ang pag-atake niya sa press […] isa talaga itong clear manifestation ng attack against press freedom, regardless kung papaano ito i-frame ni Duterte,” Martinez said.

He further emphasized that aside from the apparent curtailment of press freedom, the move by the administration is a manifestation of Duterte’s attempt to solidify his cronies.

“Bukod sa isa itong blatant na attack on freedom of speech and press in our country, it’s also a manifestation ng pagbubuo at pag-sosolidify ng kaniyang (Duterte) cronies,” he said.

He added: “‘Pag tumumba ang press freedom, na-fifirm up ang hold nung power lalo na kung walag mag-checheck at laganap ang misinformation sa bansa. It’s a clear, organized and orchestrated attempt to secure the foothold of oligarchs of tyrants, such as Duterte.” With reports from Louise Natalio and Len Cy Nagtalon

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