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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

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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Editorial

To repress the press is to oppress the people

Philippine media, once considered to be among the freest in Asia, is now under attack from an increasingly fascist regime. The case against Rappler is one of these attacks.

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Animation by Justine Reyes/TomasinoWeb.

It is already more than apparent that the Philippines is rapidly nosediving towards a fascist dictatorship; and, like any dictatorship, the free press is public enemy number one.

In a move straight out of the playbook of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, President Rodrigo Duterte seems to be keeping his word on his threats against online news site Rappler: Last Jan. 15, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked Rappler’s registration for allegedly violating constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership and control of mass media entities—a move which could effectively end Rappler’s operations.

This is a blatant attack on press freedom; but for Duterte’s staunch loyalists, the SEC ruling against Rappler seems like a glorious victory after months of war with the so-called “biased” and “yellow” media.

Notwithstanding the repeated harassment and disinformation of online trolls and pro-administration bloggers (some of whom now occupy government posts), Duterte has long openly targeted Rappler and other major media outlets that have been critical in their reportage of his brutal crackdown on illegal drugs in a glaring effort to silence the press: The president himself blasted the online news site along with broadcasting giant ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer during his second State of the Nation Address last July.

Philippine media, once considered to be among the freest in Asia, is now under attack from an increasingly fascist regime; what used to be mere but nonetheless alarming microagressions against the media—such as cursing at journalists, catcalling of female reporters, and claiming without proof that journalists were being killed for being corrupt—have now escalated to all-out attacks on the press.

Duterte and his supporters are arguing for constitutionality in Rappler’s case, but for an administration that thrives on the violation of multiple constitutional safeguards on checks and balances and human rights, they are not fooling anyone: It is obvious enough that ordering Rappler’s closure is a politically motivated move meant to send a chilling effect to the media and his critics, in a way similar to how Marcos cemented his dictatorship 47 years ago.


Philippine journalism faces even greater threats and challenges in its line of duty of serving the truth and the people.


It is a preview of what is in store for Philippine media in an all-out fascist regime: Media outlets will be forced to apply for accreditation from the government; identified critical outlets will be slapped with overblown and questionable charges and will be forced to close down, putting journalists and media practitioners out of work, behind bars—or worse, dead—if they do not bend to the whims of the regime.

The numbers do not lie: The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism have 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.

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.

Even the campus press is not safe from the state’s fascist attacks: The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) have denounced last October the military and police surveillance, harassment, intimidation, and red-tagging of several member publications in Bicol, and several other campus journalists and activists, due to their affiliation with CEGP.

Perhaps, to accurately and faithfully quote the English novelist George Orwell, “Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being.”

As dissent grows among the public with every fascist attack, the government’s attempts to close Rappler is not just an attack on Rappler nor is it just an attack on the press: It is an attack on democracy, it is an attack on the right of free expression of every citizen, it is an attack on the people and the growing resistance against Duterte’s fascist regime, even if his paid army of online trolls try tell otherwise.

In this age of fake news and trolls where critics and the press are defamed as invariably biased or partisan, Philippine journalism faces even greater threats and challenges in its line of duty of serving the truth and the people.

In these trying times where the press becomes the watchdog of an increasingly fascist dictatorship, we will not be silenced. Every effort to repress the press is to oppress the people, and we will continue to resist every effort to suppress the freedom we have long fought for with both ink and blood.

The free press has proven time and time again that its power does not waver under a dictatorship; if anything, its voice only grows louder and more critical in arousing, organizing and mobilizing the masses to stand up to tyrants and depose them from power: We will not be afraid to do the same.

TomasinoWeb stands with Rappler, with every Filipino journalist, and with the struggle for a genuine free press—one that serves no political or commercial interest but only the truth and the people.

Rappler’s fight is our fight: We will hold the line.

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