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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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Media, artists back freedom of press, expression

Media practitioners, artists, and various organizations expressed their support in freedom of the press and freedom of expression in response to the possible removal of ABS-CBN franchise and passage of Anti-Terrorism Bill.

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Media practitioners, artists, and various organizations expressed their support in freedom of the press and freedom of expression in response to the possible removal of ABS-CBN franchise and passage of Anti-Terrorism Bill.

“Ang sining ang kaluluwa ng ating bayan. Ang kalayaan sa pamamahayag at pagpapahayag ang kaluluwa ng demokrasya. ‘Pag dumating ang panahon na wala na ang mga ‘yan, wala na ang bayan,” Filipino director Joel Lamangan said in a speech at Cine Adarna Film Center, University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman on Saturday, March 7, 2020.

Lamangan stressed that the role of art and film is not just evoking emotions but reflecting the reality in the lives of the Filipinos.

“Ang pinagbabatayan ay ang katotohanang nakikita nila sa araw-araw na buhay, at ang katotohanang nakikita nila ay ang katotohanang nagrerepresenta sa interes ng nakararami,” he said.

The truth, according to Lamangan, is that many Filipinos are still oppressed, remain in poverty, killed, and continuously deceived by government officials.

“Ano ang katotohanan?…Ang katotohanang hindi ka maaaring magsabi ng katotohanan taliwas sa kanilang katotohanang ipinaglalaban,” Lamangan said.

Joel Lamangan speaks in the forum “Malaya” at the Cine Adarna Film Institute in the University of the Philippines-Diliman on March 8, 2020.

UP College of Fine Arts Prof. Neil Doloricon, Chairperson of Concerned Artists of the Philippines, similarly pointed out that artists and journalists play an important role in urging the people to prevent the death of the democracy.

“Ang kalayaan sa pamamahayag at pagpapahayag ay karapatan nating lahat. Ito ang ating sandata laban sa pang-aabuso sa kapangyarihan ng oligarkiya,” Doloricon said. “Ang karapatang ito ay dapat maglingkod sa kapakinabangan ng mamamayan.”

Doloricon mentioned that both artists and journalists during the Marcos regime continued to fight for freedom and democracy despite the forceful shutdown of the mass media and the press.

“Uhaw sa tunay na impormasyon at balita ang mamamayan. At ito ay sinikap gampanan ng mga artista, midya ng bayan,” he said.

On ABS-CBN franchise removal

In light of the franchise removal of ABS-CBN network, Doloricon said that the Duterte administration has not given any consideration to almost 11,000 employees who will be directly affected.

“Ngayon lantarang ipinahihiwatig ni Duterte na kanyang pipigilan ang muling pagbibigay ng prangkisa sa ABS-CBN,” he said. “Malinaw na ang kaganapang ito ay pagyurak sa kalayaan nating magpahayag.”

Defend Jobs PH and National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) both said that the freedom of the press and search for truth is a struggle in the current administration.

“Ang pakikibaka para sa kalayaan ay pakikibaka din para sa kasiguraduhan sa trabaho, nakabubuhay na sahod, at disenteng kabuhayan. Kasabay sa paghahanap ng katotohanan ay ang pagkakamit ng hustisiyang panlipunan…Hindi ito makakamit sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang rehimen.” Thadeus Ifurung of Defend Jobs said.

Dabet Panelo of NUJP said, “Mas malala yung sitwasyon sa ibang mga media companies dahil…karamihan ay bawal magpakita ng suporta sa kompetisyon.”

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago expressed her support, citing that the youth have become the usual target of fake news, disinformation, profiling, and red-tagging.

“Ang kabataan ay nakikiisa sa lahat ng layong ito na naninindigan kasama ng mga alagad ng medya sa pagtatanggol ng mga kalayaan sa pamamahayag at pagpapahayag.”

Despite the attack on press freedom and freedom of expression, according to Doloricon, it only indicates the effectiveness of the criticisms of both media and artists.

“Ang ating karapatan at kalayaan sa pamamahayag at pagpapahayag ay hindi panlilimos kundi ito ay iginigiit at ipinaglalaban.” he said. “ Ito rin ang hamon ngayon. Huwag tayong matakot at ipaglaban natin ito.”

The event, Malaya: Gathering for Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression, was organized by College Editors Guild of the Philippines, in cooperation with Altermidya – People’s Alternative Media Network, Defend Jobs Philippines, Concerned Artists of the Philippines, Kadamay, Active Vista, Movement Against Tyranny, Youth Act Now Against Tyranny, Dakila, and Kabataan Partylist.

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Be vigilant of looming dictatorship —Party-list representatives

“Ang pinakanakakabahala na hindi na lang tayo basta nagto-throwback kundi nararanasan na natin ngayon ang mga dating nababasa ng natin sa history books.”

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Party-list representatives encouraged Filipinos not to let Duterte administration imitate the dictatorship of late President Ferdinand Marcos as they pointed out similar patterns of oppression and violence in today’s administration. 

During the 34th anniversary protest of the EDSA People Power Revolution on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said that there is a parallelism between today’s administration and of Marcos. He said that even Duterte himself idolizes the late president, and declaring martial law is just what is missing.

“Papayag pa ba tayo na kung ano ang ginawa sa atin ng diktador na si Marcos ay gagawin ngayon ni Pangulong Duterte sa pamamagitan ng mga tiranikal na mga pamamaraan?” Zarate told TomasinoWeb in an interview.

He also challenged Filipino whether they will allow another dictator who launched the war on drugs which led to thousands of deaths, harassed progressive groups, media, and church people to lead for decades.

Meanwhile, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago echoed the same sentiments especially with the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN still remains uncertain.

“Ang pinakanakakabahala na hindi na lang tayo basta nagto-throwback kundi nararanasan na natin ngayon ang mga dating nababasa ng natin sa history books,” Elago said. 

Isagani also said that the ABS-CBN franchise renewal is now the people’s issue. He also encouraged the Congress to assert their independence as an co-equal branch of the government. 

“Ang talagang hamon ngayon ay hango sa liderato ng kamara na hindi dapat kami nadidiktahan. If we are an independent co-equal branch of [the] government, [k]ailangang tumindig kami bilang co-equal branch ng government. [H]indi dahil galit ang Presidente at ayaw niyang i-renew ang franchise ng ABS[-CBN] ay hindi na rin kami kikilos,” Zarate said. 

On mandatory ROTC

Isaganani and Elago also expressed their disapproval of the implementation of the mandatory ROTC.

“Ang tinuturo ng ROTC ay pekeng nasyonalismo bagkus ay pasismo. Sa ngayon pa lang, hindi pa ginawang mandatory. Mag-iba iba man ang pangalan niyan, ito’y gagamitin ng nasa security sector ng militar para isulong ang konsepto ng development and progress na naka ugat sa pasismo,” Zarate said. 

Elago also encouraged to stay vigilant amid the ‘looming dictatorship’ in the country.

“Hindi natin kailangan ng maghintay ng isang impeachment complaint para wakasan ang pasismo, ang anti-democratic measures at tiranya sa ating bayan. Ang totoong hamon talaga rito ay nasa taong bayan,” she said. Hazel Camba

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‘Review Citizen Service Act framework,’ student leaders say

Student leaders demand for a discussion of the framework of the ‘Citizen Service Act,’ a bill which is proposed to amend or repeal the Republic Act 9163 or the National Service Training Program Law by making the Reserve Officer Training Corps mandatory.

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Student leaders demand for a discussion of the framework of the ‘Citizen Service Act,’ a bill which is proposed to amend or repeal the Republic Act 9163 or the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Law by making the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) mandatory.

The Citizen Service Training Course (CSTC) consolidates all 32 House bills on mandatory ROTC which requires grades 11 and 12, and college students to undergo a combination of military and non-military training.

During the Committee on Higher and Technical Education’s hearing at the House of Representatives on Feb. 24, 2020, National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP) President Raoul Manuel stressed the need to discuss the framework of the proposed bill rather than its contents first.

“We wanted to know what service would be required from the students,” Manuel said.

Promoting nationalism and patriotism, as well as youth involvement in disasters, is a goal for the student leaders as well. However, Manuel believes that the provisions of the bill can be done under the NSTP Law of 2001.

“[B]efore we can proceed to amending or introducing new bills, we have to justify why it has to be changed in the first place,” Manuel said.

“Some of us here are undergoing NSTP, some have already finished, and we are looking for ways to be of service to our nation…[W]hat remains to be seen is how the state can systematically make use of the youth,” he added.

University of the Philippines (UP) Board of Regents member Isaac Punzalan believes that the bill imposes the removal of choice from the students.

Academic freedom, according to Punzalan, should not be only exercised in UP but in all universities.

“This kind of bill…[w]ould compromise academic freedom, because it really tries to take away the choice, the free choice of the students,” Punzalan said

He emphasized the need for the students’ liberty to choose on “what kind of way” they would give back and serve the people.

“We really stand that UP, SUCs, and universities should remain zones of peace and academic freedom,” Punzalan added.

Added burden to students

Student leaders believe that the mandatory ROTC will require time and effort from the “already overburdened” students.

Mandatory ROTC, according to James Candila of De La Salle University, will affect students not only physically and mentally, but also financially.

Expenses like uniforms, gears, and other additional contributions will be “a heavy burden” to families living on a tight budget. “[I]t is something that we should consider given the fact that it will still be an additional cost to our parents,” Candila said.

Students also questioned the lack of study in the effectivity of the NSTP Program.

“When we have these certain questions at hand, then, shouldn’t we still focus on these concerns rather than bring up another procedure that we aren’t even sure if it works,” Jaeanne Maranon of Ateneo de Manila University said.

The proposed CSTC bill according to her, has no material evidence to prove that it will “better” the current conditions of the Philippine youth.

Personal testimonies of Senior High School (SHS) students said that the frameworks of the previous programs offered to them do not generate any valuable learnings.

“[T]hey would share to us that they would just stand in line, and they would just march and do horseplay,” she said.

Maranon stands firm on continuously “critiquing and focusing” on how to improve the existing NSTP program instead of introducing another bill.

On passing the bill

Kabataan party-list representative Sarah Elego stressed the need for the House of Representatives to proceed with caution in terms of passing the proposed CSTC bill.

The ROTC, according to an exclusive interview with Elago, has had a long history of abuse, corruption, and discrimination. “We should not allow any such abuses to continue inside our school gates.”

Elago emphasized the need for a grievance mechanism that would respond to cases of abuses. She admittedly found reports of victim blaming on the part of the students alarming.

“[Y]ou know the victim blaming is very rampant… [h]indi dapat ganun, Kung may report ng abuso na dapat tugunan, dapat ma-ensure na may mananagot,” she said.

Elago believes that the ROTC program is rigged with “misogyny, sexism, machismo, and chauvinism.” These issues, according to her, must be properly addressed and perpetrators should be held accountable. Jayziel Khim Budino

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