'There is strength in numbers': Rights group urges Filipinos to unite on challenges vs free speech

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 20 2021 05:37 PM

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MANILA - Human rights group Karapatan on Saturday called on Filipinos to unite on issues supposedly challenging one's freedom of speech in the country, amid the "environment of impunity." 

In an interview on ANC, Karapatan Secretary General Kristina Palabay said these are the times when allegiances do not matter anymore, as the fight for one's right to speak and criticize the government's shortcomings reign "paramount."

"There is strength in numbers, from a very personal, individual level, if we think that we have no one else to turn to, or no one is with us in these various issues, then we would really feel isolated," said Palabay. 

"If we get together with other advocates, the various sectors, it doesn't even matter 'yung allegiances natin, or kung sino 'yung mga idols natin. What matters is that we unite on the issue of free speech, the exercise of thought, which is paramount in any civilized society," she added. 

(Our allegiances do not matter, neither do whoever we look up to.)

This also came following the release of a new poll by Social Weather Stations (SWS) on Friday, which revealed that a majority or 65 percent of Filipinos believe that it is dangerous to publish or broadcast news critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration.

The net agreement increased by 28 points compared to last year, according to the pollster. 

This is why Palabay said the public should start holding institutions accountable as the 2022 national elections draw nearer. 

She also added that "push back" is important to counter the culture of fear and impunity. 

"Speaking out is necessary that is why there is a need for people for legal literacy on our rights and collectively work towards pushing institutions to act on these various violations." 

ABS-CBN Corp. was denied a fresh franchise by a House of Representatives panel last year due to alleged violations. 

A number of activists, peasant leaders, and human rights defenders in the country, meanwhile, were slain or arrested since last year. 

Malacañang had said that the Department of Justice is already looking into the killings. 

Rights groups have accused the President of encouraging a crackdown on activists to silence dissent and target his detractors under the guise of intensified counter-insurgency operations against communist rebels.