Threatened with cyber libel case, campus journalist ‘forced’ to apologize speaks out

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2020 08:29 AM | Updated as of Apr 06 2020 07:14 PM

Molo clears names of 4 teachers mentioned in public apology video

MANILA (UPDATE) - A campus journalist who was allegedly forced to publicly apologize for calling out his former teachers’ mocking of his anti-government posts said he felt “suppressed” by the very teachers who once taught him how to write.

“I’m just doing my job as a journalist to render my opinion to the people and also, as a citizen, to somehow inform the people of what is happening right now. I feel like I was suppressed by these people,” Joshua Molo, editor in chief of student publication UE Dawn, told ABS-CBN News by phone Sunday night.

Earlier on Sunday, Molo appeared on a cellphone video posted on Facebook and Twitter, apologizing to several of his high school and elementary teachers in Nueva Ecija after a series of exchanges on social media.

“Bilang estudyante at mamamayan, naniniwala ako na ang pag-unlad ay matatamo sa maraming paraan. Maaaring ang paniniwala ng isa ay naiiba ngunit ‘di ibig sabihin nito ay mali. Inaamin ko po na ako ay nagkamali, at hindi na muling mauulit ang pangyayari,” he said on the video, reading from his cellphone.

(As a student and citizen, I believe that progress can be achieved through many ways, that the view of one may be different but does not necessarily mean it’s wrong. I admit I made a mistake and that will not happen again.)

Molo said he was forced to shoot the apology video after he was summoned to their barangay hall. One of his teachers threatened to file a cyber libel case against him, he said.

“I was asked either itutuloy nila 'yung kaso or I will do a public apology. Since my family po cannot afford to have a lawyer and to counter the case, we don’t have the resources for that, I opted to do a public apology,” he said.

“My mother pleaded na sana huwag na lang ipa-video, i-post na lang, kasi syempre, as a mother, parang kahihiyan na makita 'yung anak niya na ganun ang ginagawa, wala namang ginagawang kasalanan. Pero the same threat, 'yung binato, so wala akong nagawa kundi gawin ang video. And then, tapos, hindi ako makakauwi until hindi ko ginagawa 'yung video,” Molo explained.

Molo said he was also told that one of his teachers had in fact visited the Philippine National Police cybercrime division in their town.

“Chineck daw ng PNP Facebook ko and I was tagged as a leftist and hayaan na lang daw akong magpost para madampot na lang daw ako o hayaan na lang daw ako maging aktibista para ipadampot na lang ako soon. Parang ganun 'yung naging statement and it was reiterated to me noong former teacher ko na nagsampa ng reklamo,” he said.

In a new Facebook post on Monday, Molo cleared the names of 4 teachers mentioned in the video. He said they did not consent to asking for public apology and even tried to stop their co-teacher from pursuing a cyber libel complaint.

Molo told ABS-CBN News that on Sunday night, he met with 2 of his former teachers who clarified they had nothing to do with the cyber libel threat. He also met with another one on Monday morning, and a fourth one in the afternoon to discuss what happened.


The controversy started with Molo’s comments on Facebook criticizing the Philippine government’s handling of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

His comments did not sit well with some of his former teachers at Cabiao National High School who advised him to just listen to them and acknowledge the efforts of the government.

But Molo thought otherwise. In a Facebook and Instagram story posted on April 2, he asked his former teachers to check their privilege.

 “…[T]hey are just privileged enough not to see what other people are experiencing. Sabagay puno naman 'yung refs nila at may sweldo sila (Afterall, their refs are full and they receive salaries) despite the pandemic,” he wrote.

“Yung pamilya ko wala. (My family has none.) I spent more than half of my savings already, so don’t tell us na masyado pa kaming bata (that we’re too young). Baka masyado lang kayong okay na sa buhay niyo, kasi may nakakain kayo everyday (You might be living comfortably because you have something to eat every day,” he continued.

Molo shared he comes from a family of low-income earners (his mother is a barangay tanod) and his studies at the University of the East in Manila are financed by a scholarship and allowances from a foundation and the publication which he heads.

The exchange did not end there. The following day, Molo said some of his former teachers commented on one of his posts by making fun of what he said the previous day.

One of the teachers said “puno kasi ref mo” (your ref is full) while another one said “may sweldo kase kayo at hindi nagugutom mga pamilya niyo” (you have a salary and your family does not go hungry). A third one remarked, “wala kasi tayong savings” (we don’t have savings), in an apparent reference to his post.

In another Facebook and Instagram story, Molo called out what he said was “patama” or dig against him.

“Sweldo (salary), savings, ref. Of all I have stated last time, this is what they had picked up. What’s up reading comprehension?” he said, while showing the screenshot of his teachers’ online comments.

He went on to question what exactly his journalism teachers are actually teaching.

“I am so disappointed that my former Campus Journalism teachers are making fun of my recent statements just because they are obviously slapped by it. Maybe the ‘Campus Journalism’ they are upholding only exists for contests, for bragging rights,” he said.

He added: “Thankfully, we (with some of my Kabyawan colleagues) diverted from the path our so-called ‘advisers’ are taking now.”

Molo was EIC of his high school publication Kabyawan for 4 years.

He insisted there was nothing wrong with his posts.

“I did nothing wrong with what I posted. I called them out because they did something wrong. They bullied me and they have been bullying other people in the past. And I think it’s time for them to be called out.”


The incident drew sharp condemnation from various media and human rights organizations.

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines called it a “blatant suppression” of democratic rights.

"Instead of filing nonsensical criminal charges, the government should work on improving a coordinated and sustained public information campaign and immediately deliver economic assistance and services to everyone," CEGP National President Daryl Angelo Baybado said in a statement Sunday.

Molo’s publication, UE Dawn, also came to his defense.

“Preventing someone from expressing his or her opinion on matters such as grievances against the government is an act of oppression. We, the members of the UE Dawn, strongly believe that to criticize the government is a right of every Filipino,” it said.

Rights group Karapatan called it a “curtailment of the right to free expression.”

“Karapatan would like to remind authorities that the right to free speech is protected by the Philippine Constitution and international human rights instruments. Anyone who wishes to express dismay over government’s actions should never be threatened and penalized,” the group said.

The apology video went viral on the same day it was posted that one of his teachers, through the barangay, eventually asked Molo to change the privacy settings of his post, as they had been supposedly receiving negative messages.

Reflecting on his contentious relationship with some of his former teachers, Molo said he will continue to speak up. 

“I thought those people are rooting for me to become a lawyer someday, but they can’t even acknowledge my arguments,” he said in one post.

“Now that I have learned to speak up in a better way, there’s no turning back. Shoo away cry babies,” he added.

On Monday night, Molo tweeted that along with the support he is getting on social media is the continuing "red-tagging" of him.

"Hindi po ako miyembro ng NPA (New People's Army) o anumang org sa labas ng UE. Hamak na mag-aaral at campus journalist lang po ako; nag-aaral at nangangarap para sa sarili, pamilya, at bayan," he wrote.

ABS-CBN News is still seeking to get the side of Molo's 3 other former teachers involved in the incident, including the one who supposedly threatened him with a complaint.