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Senate passes new anti-hazing bill

Senate Bill No. 1662, which seeks to amend the Anti-Hazing Law by strengthening existing measures and regulating other forms of initiation rites, was approved with 19 affirmative votes on Monday.

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Photo courtesy of Joseph Vida/Senate PRIB.

The Senate approved on Monday on the third and final reading a bill prohibiting hazing as a prerequisite for admission into a fraternity, sorority, or organization.

Senate Bill No. 1662, which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995 by strengthening the existing measures and regulating other forms of initiation rites, was approved with 19 affirmative votes, no negative votes and no abstentions.

The bill defined hazing as “any physical or psychological suffering, harm or injury inflicted on a recruit, member, neophyte, or applicant for admission or continuing membership into the fraternity, sorority or organization.”

The existing law permits hazing during an initiation rite, provided that there is a written notice addressed to the school a week before the activity.

The House approved a counterpart bill on Jan. 22.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who sponsored the bill as chair of the Senate public order committee, said the amendments would now require organizations to submit an application to school authorities, with the initiation rites outlined seven days prior to the scheduled date.

School authorities should then supervise and report that no hazing was conducted in the initiation rites.

The bill penalizes with reclusion temporal or a fine of P1 million the officers and members of a fraternity, sorority, or organization who would participate in hazing rites.

The school would be held accountable and be fined P1 million if its officials failed to prevent hazing.

Lacson added that aside from rites in schools, the measure will also cover hazing activities in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Philippine Military Academy, and Philippine National Police Academy.

The filing of the bill was prompted by the fatal hazing case of freshman law student Horacio Castillo III during the  initiation rites of the Aegis Juris Fraternity September last year.C.N. Dumaua

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Protests vs charter change, ‘dictatorship’ mark People Power commemoration

Groups slammed plans to amend the constitution as a move toward another dictatorship as they commemorated the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

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Photo by Mark Darius Sulit/TomasinoWeb.

Thousands flocked to the People Power Monument on Saturday and Sunday to protest plans to amend the constitution and to condemn the administration’s “dictatorship” as the country commemorated the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

The No to Cha-cha Coalition led by Movement Against Tyranny, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and various religious formations marched to the historic monument Saturday afternoon, Feb. 24, where they decried President Rodrigo Duterte as a “budding dictator.”

“[Former dictator Ferdinand] Marcos’ (sic) ouster is a grim reminder to all budding dictators, including Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, that our people will never allow tyranny to reign,” Movement Against Tyranny in a statement.

The group further warned Duterte that “[s]hould he persist in his policies of extrajudicial killings, all-out war, dictatorial rule, and subservience to foreign powers, he will surely suffer the same fate as Marcos.”

The People Power Revolution led to the ousting of the Marcos regime and restored democracy in the country in 1986 after years marked with human rights violations and suppression of dissent.

The uprising also gave birth to the 1987 Constitution, which Duterte and his allies are now planning to amend through a charter change in order to establish a federal form of government.

Movement Against Tyranny has slammed the planned charter change as an “act of tyranny.”

Meanwhile, in the protest program led by opposition group Tindig Pilipinas Sunday evening, Feb. 25, Lanz Espacio of Kalipunan ng Kilusang Masa rejected the moves to amend the constitution.

“The basic sectors are not asking for a constitutional change, but for a change in their condition, which was not uplifted in the last 32 years,” Espacio said.

Opposition senators Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino and Antonio Trillanes IV also joined the Sunday rally.

Trillanes, who has hounded Duterte with accusations of ill-gotten wealth, told reporters that he believes “na nagbabago na ang ihip ng hangin [at] nararamdaman na ng mga kababayan natin ang false promises ni Duterte, at worse, humihirap ang buhay nila ngayon.”

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The protests on Saturday and Sunday also coincided with “Dasal at Ayuno Laban sa Cha-cha, Para sa Demokrasya: Pag-amin, Pagtitika, Pagababago at Pagkakaisa,” a nine-day prayer and fasting vigil at the People Power Monument that started on Feb. 17, Saturday, led by Catholic clergy and laity group Gomburza.

In a statement, Gomburza leader Fr. Robert Reyes said the administration “seeks to cast aside this legacy, proposing to replace it with a federalist project short on social justice principles and long on authoritarian possibilities lurking beneath its extravagant promises.”

Duterte’s remarks and stand on certain issues have led to critics to tag him as a “dictator,” a label which he has seemingly acknowledged and even accepted.

In a gathering with former New People’s Army cadres last Feb. 7, the President stated, “Muingon mo’g diktador, diktador gyud ko. Kay og ‘di ko mag-diktador, putang ina, walang mangyayari sa bayan na ‘to (If you say I am a dictator, then I am. If I will not become a dictator, son of a bitch, nothing will happen to this country).

Along with charter change and threats to declare a “revolutionary government,” critics cite Duterte allowing the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the imposition of martial law in Mindanao May last year and its subsequent extension until the end of this year, extrajudicial killings linked to the drug war, and his tirades against the media and opposition personalities as signs of the President’s dictatorial tendencies.

Duterte skipped the commemoration rites which was attended by former President Fidel Ramos and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, but nonetheless called for “unity and solidarity.”

“May this occasion foster unity and solidarity as we pursue our hopes and aspirations for our nation. Let us further enrich our democracy by empowering our citizenry, defending their rights and strengthening the institutions that safeguard their freedoms,” the President said in a statement.—A. Ortega

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Students decry Duterte’s ‘tyranny’ in mass walkout

Students also pushed the protest on Twitter with the hashtag #WalkoutPH, which became one of the trending hashtags on Friday.

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Photo by Von Ozar/TomasinoWeb.

Students from various schools and universities in Metro Manila walked out of their classes on Friday to protest the Duterte administration’s “tyranny” and “anti-people” policies.

Around 1,000 protesters from militant student and youth groups trooped to España carrying banners and placards condemning numerous issues such as extrajudicial killings, the implementation of the free tuition policy and tuition fee hikes, the tax reform law, the phaseout of old jeepneys in the modernization program, the extension of martial law in Mindanao and charter change.

The protesters then marched to Morayta carrying an effigy of Duterte as a king holding a rod with a swastika and wearing a long red cape listing the administration’s “oppressive” policies.

The effigy was accompanied by four men wearing masks in the likeness of Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

In the program in front of the Far Eastern University, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago slammed “threats of dictatorship” and called on the youth to push for social reforms.

“Ang mga kabataan ay handang lumaban para sa tunay na reporma sa lupa, handang lumaban para sa pambansang industriyalisasyon, handang lumaban para sa libreng edukasyon sa lahat ng antas, handang lumaban para ang walang boses naman sa ating lipunan ang magkaroon ng boses,” Elago said.

Editors and leaders from different school publications, media organizations and student councils also decried “attacks” on press freedom during the protest in the midst of the President’s tirades against online news site Rappler and the banning of their reporters from the Malacañang.

Micah Rimando, editor-in-chief of Matanglawin Ateneo, said that despite these attacks, “kaming mga estudyanteng mamamahayag [ay patuloy na] magiging mulat at mapagmulat laban sa anumang atake sa karapatan ng sambayanan.”

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Meanwhile, Mikko Ringia, UP College of Mass Communication Student Council chairperson, urged student journalists to fight for “genuine” press freedom and to stand with marginalized sectors.

“Hindi ibig sabihin na ibinalik na ang license ng Rappler ay mayroon nang press freedom. Hindi ibig sabihin na wala nang libel case ang mga journalist ay andiyan na ang press freedom. Ang tunay na press freedom ay [ang] pagpapalaya sa uring pinagsasamantalahan,” Ringia said.

Activist fisherfolk, labor, and peasant groups joined students from the University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines (UP), Ateneo de Manila University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of the East and the National University as they marched to Mendiola later that night, where they continued and ended the protest.

Students also pushed the protest on Twitter with the hashtag #WalkoutPH, which became one of the trending hashtags on Friday, earning more than 3,000 tweets and at least 2.6 million impressions.

Militant youth groups staged similar walkout protests in Baguio and Cebu, which came two days before the 32nd anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Various groups are expected to hold more demonstrations in the days leading to the commemoration of the uprising that toppled the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Feb. 22, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque warned that students from state universities could face expulsion should they participate in the protests.

“Bahala po sila kung gusto nilang ma-kickout sila. Sayang po ‘yan lalong lalo na yung sa nakikinabang sa libreng tuition,” Roque said.

Nonetheless, UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan endorsed the demonstrations in a memorandum, encouraging student participation in the protests “as part of their education.”—P. Jamilla

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Media groups protest attacks on press freedom

During the Black Friday for Press Freedom protest, journalists were on the other side of the story.

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Photo by Alecsandra Go/TomasinoWeb.

Journalists were on the other side of the story last Friday as they gathered at the Boy Scouts Circle in Quezon City to protest the state-sanctioned closure of online news site Rappler.

Around 350 veteran journalists, media practitioners, and members of the campus press and the academe took to the streets wearing black shirts and ribbons for the Black Friday for Press Freedom protest, as they decried the government’s actions on Rappler as a major blow in a series of attacks on the press under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We’re just journalists, and yet there is a lot of effort being put to turn journalism into a crime. There’s certainly many more crimes for the government to look at,” Rappler Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa said during the protest.

Last Jan. 11, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked the online news site’s license to operate due to alleged evasion of constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of mass media entities.

The SEC said an internal probe was done as early as December 2016 when it received a complaint from the Office of the Solicitor General when Rappler Holdings, Inc., the online news site’s parent company, issued depositary receipts for shares that were sold to Omidyar Network, a foreign investment firm.

Rappler dismissed the SEC ruling, saying that they maintain editorial independence and that the investment did not give investors a say on editorial matters.

The National Bureau of Investigation also summoned Ressa over a cybercrime libel complaint for an article written in 2012.  Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II stated that the Department of Justice would also look into other laws that the online news site might have violated.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and media alliance Let’s Integrate for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) condemned these actions as blatant attempts to stifle critical coverage of the government’s brutal crackdown on illegal drugs.

“Ang trabaho ng media ay magkwento ng katotohanan. Hindi kasalanan ng media kung ang katotohanan para kay Duterte ay masama […] Ito ang dahilan kung bakit kinikitil ang Rappler,” said LODI’s Tonyo Cruz, a blogger and columnist for the Manila Bulletin.

Malou Mangahas of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) also reminded that “Ang press freedom po, dito po nakasandig ang ating people’s right to know.”

Ressa was unfazed with the threats, however, saying that they would continue to work and that they would not stop challenging the SEC’s decision.

“We will hold the line. We’re doing journalism. We’re speaking truth to power. We are not afraid and we won’t be intimidated.”

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The SEC said Rappler is still free to continue its operations within 15 days while its decision is not yet final and executory

 

Martial law déjà vu

Rappler has been consistently attacked by Duterte’s supporters and even by the President himself.

During his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) July last year, Duterte accused Rappler of being “fully owned by Americans.” In the same address, he also blasted other major media outlets such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer and broadcasting company ABS-CBN for supposed biased reportage.

Duterte had also expressed intentions of blocking ABS-CBN’s application for franchise renewal as well as threatening to expose the Inquirer’s owners, the Prieto-Rufino families, for alleged unpaid taxes. Two weeks after the SONA, the Prietos sold their shares to business tycoon Ramon Ang, a known close associate of Duterte.

Lawyer Melencio Santa Maria slammed Duterte’s open attacks on the media, which he said was a “déjà vu” of the martial law era. Martial law victim and director Joel Lamangan expressed similar sentiments during the protest.

“Ako po ay biktima ng martial law at nalulungkot ako na hanggang ngayon, [kalayaan] ang ipinaglalaban,” Lamangan said.

College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) National President Jon Callueng likewise recalled the era, saying “Ang pag-atake sa mga mamamahayag ay pag-atake sa demokrasyang ipinaglaban ng kapwa natin mamamahayag noong martial law.”

In a protest in Mendiola led by CEGP Wednesday last week, Callueng also urged student journalists to remember CEGP alumna Liliosa Hilao, the first martial law political prisoner to die in detention.

Hilao was an activist and the associate editor of Hasik, the student publication of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, when she was arrested by elements of the Philippine Constabulary Anti-Narcotics Unit in 1973.

In their year-end report, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders declared the Philippines the “deadliest country” in Asia for journalists after recording four journalist killings in 2017.

NUJP, PCIJ, and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility recorded the killings of six journalists in the first 16 months of Duterte’s term, along with eight attempted murders and death threats, and six major cases of threats from local officials and pro-administration bloggers.

Duterte claimed last May that journalists were killed for being corrupt.

CEGP also condemned in a statement the red-tagging of alternative media reporters and even campus publications, which they deemed as signs of “Duterte’s looming dictatorship.”—A. Ortega, P. Jamilla

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