As the country battles a pandemic, the government has found it more important to press on its assault on media freedom through the cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against broadcast network ABS-CBN.
The timing borders on the bizarre when on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, Solicitor General Jose Calida warned of graft charges against the NTC if it allowed the network to operate beyond May 4, the date its 25-year franchise expired.
It is doubly despicable that it happens as our people battle a deadly pandemic, which they will need timely and accurate information to defeat. To take away a network with a reach so broad there are areas where it is the only source of information could prove fatal during this plague.
While Congress professed surprise and reacted with anger at what it saw as the NTC’s disregard for its sovereign authority to decide on franchises, it cannot wash its hands of this travesty. Lawmakers themselves had the whole time to deliberate on the bills to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise but did not.
But let us not forget where the ultimate responsibility for the silencing of ABS-CBN lies: President Rodrigo Duterte. Irked by the network’s failure – since explained – to air his ads during the 2016 presidential campaign, he personally and repeatedly vowed in public to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.
And now ABS-CBN has gone dark. The message is clear: What Duterte wants, Duterte gets.
It is just as clear that Duterte’s real intent is to silence the critical media and intimidate everyone else into submission. And this we should not and cannot allow.
As a people, we must understand and recognize that this goes beyond ABS-CBN. Government’s decision to close a major media network places the narrow personal and political interests of those in power over the welfare of the people. The fourth estate under attack, the silencing of dissent, are symptoms of a virus that has found its way inside a weak system of governance.
Whatever complaints have been lodged against the network, there are agencies in which these should be threshed out. If anything needs to be corrected, these can and should be undertaken with a greater respect and without violation of the fundamental protection provided in the Constitution for freedom of expression and press freedom.
In this period of crisis, when there is worsening poverty and hunger, we must all work together, set aside differences, ease the lines of communication and resist, condemn and speak out against government’s attempt to trample on our freedoms. Our people’s lives could well depend on this. For sure, democracy does.
We, the community of independent Filipino journalists, call on all Filipinos who cherish democracy and liberty to stand with us. This is our common cause.
Freedom of the press does not belong to us, the media, but to you, the people. It is a freedom we wield in the service of the people’s right to know and to help ensure that you enjoy your right to free expression.
We triumphed once over a tyrant who thought he could silence our collective voices for long. We can do so again.
IPAGTANGGOL ANG MALAYANG PAMAMAHAYAG!
IPAGTANGGOL ANG MALAYANG PAGPAPAHAYAG!
MABUHAY ANG PILIPINO!
ANSA East Asia & Pacific
Center for Media Freedom and Responsbility
Educational Research and Development Assistance Foundation, Inc.
Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG)
Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network
Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines
Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS), Inc.
Journalism Studies Association of the Philippines
Legal Network for Truthful Elections
Mindanao Gold Star Daily
Mindanao News Express
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
Philippine Press Institute
UP Department of Journalism
UP FactChecking Lab
Aika Rey, Rappler
Alan Garcia, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Alexandria Dennise San Juan
Allysa Marie Semana, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Alona Pusag, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
April Rose Magpantay, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Ariel Papalid, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Atty. Jose Manuel I. Diokno, Free Legal Assistance Group
Atty. Theodore O. Te, Free Legal Assistance Group
Atty. Virgilio Ponciano A. Olaya, Free Legal Assistance Group
Atty. Wilfred D. Asis, Free Legal Assistance Group
Bea Cupin, Rappler
Ben de Vera, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Bernard Flores, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Bhal Cabrera, Mindanao News Express
Brian Andal, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Bryan Castro, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Bryan Kristoffer Brazil
Carl Javier, PumaPodcast
Carmela Fonbuena, Freelance Journalist
Catalina Ricci Madarang, Interaksyon
Ceej Tantengco, PumaPodcast
Cherrie Regalado, Freelance Journalist
Christian V. Esguerra, UST Journalism Faculty
Christine Chung, PumaPodcast
Danilo Arao, Associate Editor, Bulatlat Multimedia
Danilo Del Moro, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Dexter Cabalza, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Diosa Quiñones, PumaPodcast
Divina M. Suson, Freelance Journalist
DJ Yap, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Dyan Loquellano, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Elizabeth Ruth Deyro, CNN Philippines
Ellen Tordesillas, VERA Files
Felipe F. Salvosa II, UST Journalism Program Coordinator
Genalyn Palabrica, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
George Ampil, PumaPodcast
Ghio Ong, The Philippine STAR
Gigi Casilang, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Gioramil Estrillado Manabat, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Glenn Ray Roluna, Mindanao News Express
Ivy Lisa F. Mendoza, UP Department of Journalism
Jairo Bolledo, NUJP, PUP College of Communication
Janina Magundayao, PumaPodcast
Janvic Mateo, Philippine Star/UP Department of Journalism
JC Gotinga, Rappler
Jeline Malasig, Interaksyon
Jhesset Enano, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Jhesset Thrina Enano, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Jodee Agoncillo, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Jodesz Gavilan, Rappler
Jonathan Magistrado, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Joseph Almer Pedrajas
Jovic Yee, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Julie Aurelio, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Karl Ocampo, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Karl Wendell Villamor, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Kenneth Yapyuco, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Kris Gonzales-Aguda, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Krixia Subingsubing, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Larizon Seguro, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Larry de Sagun, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Leila Salaverria, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Leo O. Laparan II , UST Journalism Faculty
Lian Buan, Rappler
Lodicia Jalago, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Ma. Diosa Labiste, UP Department of Journalism
Maisie Joven, PumaPodcast
Mara Cepeda, Rappler
Marc Casillan, PumaPodcast
Marc Jayson Cayabyab, The Philippine STAR
Marchel Espina, NUJP Bacolod chair/Rappler correspondent
Maria Lourdes Sereno
Maria Rosa N Carrion
Maricar Cinco, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Mariejo Ramos, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Marites D. Vitug, Rappler
Marlon Ramos, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Matthew Reysio-Cruz, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Meg Adonis, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Melanie Bicomong, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Melvin Gascon, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Michael Navarro, Mindanao News Express
Michael Ravaca, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Mirjana Casillan, PumaPodcast
Neil Jayson N. Servallos, The Philippine STAR
Nestor P. Burgos, Jr.
Nikka Valenzuela, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Nina Lim Yuson
Nina Torralba, PumaPodcast
Nolan Abulencia, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Paterno Esmaquel II, Rappler
Patricia Denise Chiu, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Pauline Macaraeg, Rappler
Paulynn Paredes Sicam
Raja Aishah, PumaPodcast
Ralf Rivas, Rappler
Ralph Edwin U. Villanueva, The Philippine STAR
Rambo Talabong, Rappler
Red Batario, Center for Community Journalism and Development, Inc.
Rez Andrew Bernardo, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Robert JA Basilio Jr., Freelance Writer
Roby Alampay, PumaPodcast
Romejohn Maramo, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Ronald Remo, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Ronaldo Legaspi, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Rosette Adel, Interaksyon/Philstar.com
Roy Stephen Canivel, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Teresita Ang See
Teresita Pedrocha-Aquino, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Tess Bacalla, Journalist and Media Consultant
Tina Santos, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Tricia Aquino, PumaPodcast
Victor Santos, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Wilfredo Rallama, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Woodrow A. Francia, ABS-CBN South Tagalog Regional Divison
Yvonne T. Chua, UP Department of Journalism