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Editorial

Are you standing behind the right line?

Our heroes died fighting for our freedom. But Rodrigo Duterte kills our freedom by drowning out the critical voices of the media through its relentless attacks against the freedom of the press—and even going as far as weaponizing the law.

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Art by Jessica Lopez

Jose Rizal died fighting for our freedom. Andres Bonifacio died fighting for our freedom. Our heroes died fighting for our freedom. But Rodrigo Duterte kills our freedom by drowning out the critical voices of the media through its relentless attacks against the freedom of the press—and even going as far as weaponizing the law.

Ripping off from Marcos’ playbook, Duterte drowns the independent and critical voices who can destabilize his kingdom of bones and blood.

The online news site, Rappler, has been very critical of the administration, noting the brutal bloodshed in the name of  War on Drugs, the dominance of internet trolls, and his anti-poor projects such as the TRAIN Law to name of a few of his list of sins.

And just last week, an arrest warrant has been issued against Rappler’s CEO, Maria Ressa for cyber libel charges pertaining to an article they published way back in May 2012. The complainant, Wilfredo Keng, has been allegedly linked with the late Chief Justice Renato Corona who was undergoing an impeachment trial during that time. However, the cyber libel law was not yet in effect until October of that same year. And in addition to that, Keng had only filed the complaint on October 2017 which was five years too late. Yet despite the discrepancies of the case, an arrest warrant was given to Ressa, and was forced to post bail amounting to P100,000 the next day. At least eight charges has been filed against the online news site ever since last year, and was forced to bail for six times already.

With the State using the law to its advantage, they flaunt their powers to silence the critical. Their oppression trickled down to various university and college publications, who are now on the verge of shutdown due to censorship, and even alternative media who openly lambasts his bloody regime.

This is not just a battle between the warring factions of the DDS Army and the Dilawans, this is a battle under the banner of the three stars and the sun. The enemy does not lie with us, it sleeps inside the grand facade of the Palace. This regime knows that the people hold the true power—and it terrifies them greatly that they try to divide us by spreading distrust and false propaganda.

We are one in holding the line. And we will hold it until we taste the freedom our heroes have died for.

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Editorial

Not just mere collaterals, not a laughing matter

In the past three years of President Duterte’s administration, we have seen a lot of collaterals—be it a victim of his bloody war on drugs or his anti-poor policies—done just so that he could finally say that “change has come,” that he has succeeded. But what we have observed, so far, is a regression of what has been achieved, a degradation of democracy, a propagation of the culture of violence and impunity, and we are waiting for him to look us in the eye and convince us of what change has really been done, for better or worse, in his first three years.

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“We cannot drive the [Chinese] away because they insisted it’s theirs.”

Weeks after the Recto Bank incident, President Duterte has this to say about what the Palace deemed to call “a maritime incident” in which a Chinese vessel hit a Philippine boat carrying 22 fishermen and left them there to the “mercy of the elements.”

“Tanong sila, ‘Will you allow the Chinese to fish?’ Sabi ko, ‘Of course. ‘Yan ang pinag-usapan namin noon, kaya tayo nag-uusap eh. And that was [why] we were allowed to fish again,” Duterte said in his speech at the anniversary of the Presidential Security Group last Wednesday, June 26. “Ngayon, sabi nila, ‘You have to ban China. I-prohibit mo.’ Kung i-prohibit ko, how do I enforce my desire?”

Duterte is talking about a supposed ‘mutual agreement’ the Philippines made with China (which Panelo said “was more of an informal agreement” and by word) through a bilateral talk in which DILG Secretary Eduardo Año and Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, and other cabinet members were said to have attended.

Meanwhile, Duterte, the Chief Executive who vowed to enforce the Laws of the Land and who himself proudly proliferates the doctrine that obedience to law will entail peace and order, continues to contradict himself by making a folly out of the Philippine Constitution.

Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”

Further, the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 also bans foreign fishing vessels in Philippine waters. The Hague ruling declared that Recto Bank is part of Philippine waters, therefore Chinese vessels fishing in the area would be a violation of our exclusive rights.

But it seems that the President doesn’t find urgency in this; he surrendered our sovereignty the moment he agreed in the bilateral agreement with the superpower up until now that he remains complacent.

With an estimate of 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in our EEZ, it is no more obvious that the gas-rich West Philippine Sea is an investment paradise for imperialists since it is booming with natural resources. Recto Bank’s Sampaguita gas field alone has up to 4.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 115 million barrels of oil.

Further, China has already expressed its desire to fund Duterte’s Build, Build, Build fantasy. Infamous for its debt-trap policy, China interests itself with the West Philippine Sea.

Last March, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that there is nothing wrong with Recto Bank as collateral for a loan agreement with China. “For me [China seizing Reed Bank should there be a default in the repayment of the loan] is… not a possibility because we never reneged,” he told reporters. “We are known for paying our obligations.”

This is alarming, no more than how analysts were alarmed after Senate President Sotto’s “fish” remarks. Malacañang should be reminded that our sovereignty is non-negotiable.

In the past three years, we have seen a decline in the rule of democracy: a senator got jailed and another is being threatened with incarceration just for being a critic of the administration; a Supreme Court Chief Justice was ousted, backed by the Chief Executive himself; and a government agency that checks on executive power was threatened.

There is a culture of violence and impunity manifested by the rising death toll of Duterte’s War on Drugs, the recently recorded 209 dead farmers under this administration, the continuous crackdown on human rights defenders and activists, violent dispersals of striking workers across the country and union busting, and the ongoing Martial Law in Mindanao.

These—after attacking press freedom, making rape jokes and misogynistic and homophobic statements, disrespecting religion, and allying with known plunderers and tyrants—have all been done just so that Duterte could finally say “change has come.”

Just last Tuesday, July 2, a three-year-old girl has become the latest victim of Duterte’s drug war. Senate-elect Ronald Dela Rosa dismissed the incident by saying “Sh*t happens.”

It is high time to respond to these attacks and say enough is enough. The President must be reminded that we are not mere collaterals in his dreamscape and that we know it when actual sh*t happens: It is when tyrants get more power and the failure of democracy becomes a laughing matter.

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Editorial

The Rape of Philippine Press

Senate President Vicente Sotto III is a rapist of the press, an oppressor; an ignorant Filipino of his own culture, and plagiarist. He, along with Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon and Richie Reyes, killed the innocent Pepsi Paloma, and, with Duterte’s ardent admirers on his side, is now killing the Philippine media.

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Artwork by Jessica Lopez.

After its continuous attacks on the Philippine media, the Duterte administration, an ever-growing faction of sycophantic allies of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos reincarnate, has nowhere left to hide its real objectives: to oppress and to suppress the Filipinos.

Earlier this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked online news site Rappler’s registration for allegedly violating constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership and control of mass media entities—a move which would have effectively ended Rappler’s operations. Not only that but, due to his “lack of trust” and “irritation,” President Duterte himself denied the entry of Rappler journalist and accredited Malacañang correspondent Pia Ranada on arrival at the Palace to cover an event. These, following the President’s blasts as well against news corporations ABS-CBN and Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), along with Rappler, on his second State of the Nation Address.

What the administration has shown, if it is not obvious enough, are mere fears on the potent ability of the media and blatant assaults on press freedom, a clear abuse of their (administration) power. Before the privileged and unapologetically despotic ones sitting in the Palace go berserk and deny such claims again, it is to note that the 2018 World Media Freedom Index released by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported that the country has slid six spots down the rank, after being branded by the watchdog itself in its last year’s year-end report as one of the deadliest countries for journalists. RSF, meanwhile, also pointed out that the administration “developed several methods for pressuring and silencing journalists who criticize [Duterte’s] notorious war on drugs.” To add, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines have recorded killings of nine journalists in the first 23 months of Duterte in the office, with 85 more cases of attacks and threats.

It is clearly a sad time for Philippine journalism and will continue to be so under Duterte’s reign.

Just when people think the attacks are declining, if not absolutely over, one of the President’s lapdogs came scooting in on the throne of Senate presidency—tongue out and skin all muddy from the dirt he accumulated from stealing food-for-thoughts and drinks of ignorance—ordering Inquirer.net, the online counterpart of PDI, to take down its articles that were insinuating he whitewashed the rape case of late actress Pepsi Paloma in 1982. As of yesterday, the said articles, written by U.S.-based columnist Rodel Rodis and Totel de Jesus, can no longer be accessed by the public and are “under review.” The Senate President seemed pleased about it as he even “thanked” Inquirer, according to a Rappler report, on its apparent take-down of the written works.

This is, beyond question, censorship of the media, the bridge between the public and the government. Any effort to burn that connection and repress the press is an effort to oppress the people. We should not cave in but stand for and with the Filipino people in this fight for rights that gravely affect decision-making processes in life and will safeguard the people; and that the government is solely enjoying and denying the public. The administration is singling out the purveyors of truth—something of which they are obviously inhibiting the people they promised to serve, secure and protect in the first place—and we should not stand idly by. In these trying times wherein the true nature of the government is slowly being revealed, we should not be muffled. In this path gearing toward the death of democracy, we should remain unwavered with our pens and our unsilenced voices.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III is a rapist of the press, an oppressor; an ignorant Filipino of his own culture, and plagiarist. He, along with Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon and Richie Reyes, killed the innocent Pepsi Paloma, and, with Duterte’s ardent admirers on his side, is now killing the Philippine media.

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Editorial

Press freedom and the EDSA revolution

Press freedom does not belong merely to the people of the press, but to each and every member of the public the profession serves.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This editorial is from the UP Journalism Club and the Philippine Collegian, with TomasinoWeb, Tug-ani, and the LaSallian.

Contrary to the status quo, the people, not the government, hold the power in a democracy. To wield this power and attain what is rightfully theirs, the public’s access to information should be a given—no bureaucratic red tape, no threats of death or harm to persons.

A genuinely free and independent press is vital in protecting the public’s right and capacity to make decisions regarding their own welfare; a democratic society is not itself without it. And so, press freedom does not belong merely to the people of the press, but to each and every member of the public the profession serves.

More often than not, however, the destruction of this basic freedom is the first step of despots and dictators bent on seizing political power—very much like the case with Rappler, libel suits and the continuing call for the criminalization of libel, defunding of student publications, and the harassment and murder of journalists.

The Duterte administration does not stop there. It employs equally effective means to obscure the truth and discredit the very role of journalism in consolidating its propagandists, bloggers, and purveyors of fake news to constantly bombard the people’s mindsets with outright distrust in the field of journalism.

Therefore, that the government, sworn to serve the public that voted it to power, is waging a war against press freedom is a strong indication of the extremely urgent need to rise up and engage in a larger fight against dictatorship.

The media under attack today is that which is critical of the powerful, that which seeks to counter misinformation, lies and myth. In the martial law years, it was the critical disposition of the alternative press that constantly fed information to the public, no matter how subtle or bold the means. It was this sense of criticality that ousted the dictatorship and brought back democracy in our land.

It is now, more than ever, that the press must consciously, actively be on the side of truth. Today’s press must regain its role—never simply a passive, “neutral” reporter of the changing history, but a critical watchdog of the society, of the powers that be.

On the 32nd anniversary of the historic EDSA revolution, it would all serve us well to remember that power still very much remains in the people and no one can stand in their way anytime they decide to forcefully take back what is owed them. The Filipino people cannot afford to lose democracy again. All dissent is in danger. We need to stand together to protect press freedom.

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