Nat'l Security Council: Upholding the truth a security responsibility
MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered internet services providers to block websites affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front, as well as sites by progressive groups and independent media.
"You are hereby directed to effect the immediate blocking of the reported websites found to be affiliated to and are supporting terrorists and terrorist organizations," a memorandum issued by Commissioner Gamalier Cordoba to internet service providers read.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon asked the NTC to block access to websites of the CPP-NPA-NDF as well as progressive groups and independent media like Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly.
The CPP denounced the move, describing it a "push to erect a Marco Anti-Democracy (MAD) Internet Firewall in a desperate bid to censor online criticism and dissent against the incoming" administration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and "suppress progressive, patriotic and revolutionary journalism and literature that exposes the ills of the ruling system."
Esperon cited previous Anti-Terrorism Council resolutions designating the CPP-NPA-NDF and some of its alleged members as terrorists.
Designation is a unilateral act on the part of the ATC, upheld by the Supreme Court.
No reasons were mentioned in Esperon’s request why websites of progressive groups and independent media were included in NTC request. But Esperon's letter referred to them as “affiliated to and are supporting these terrorists and terrorist organizations.”
But in a statement issued later in the day, Esperon said "upholding and promoting the truth is a national security responsibility" of the National Security Council.
The council, Esperon said, is concerned about the "welfare" of Filipinos who spend time on the internet.
He also claimed that Pinoy Weekly had called on the public to support armed resistance based on its entries, and was also allegedly a party for the recruitment of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
"I understand that this may come as a cause for concern to many Filipinos to see websites, such as Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly, who claim that they are advocates of truth and objectivity, are part of the list of assets that I had requested for the NTC to restrict," Esperon said.
"Though we recognize that websites like Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly have been using their platforms to spread information on causes important to them, we cannot simply turn a blind eye to the fact that they have actively supported organizations affiliated with the CPP-NPA-NDF," he added.
As of posting, the websites of both PAMALAKAYA and Bulatlat were inaccessible.
Pinoy Weekly's publisher PinoyMedia Center, Inc. said it was "outraged" with their inclusion in the list.
The publisher urged the NTC to reverse their decision and not interfere with free speech, describing it as a "violation" of their rights.
"NTC and NSC's action is an outright violation of our freedom of the press and of expression and an affront to the people's right to information, especially with the proliferation of disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation in the media," PinoyMedia Center said in a statement.
BULATLAT REJECTS INCLUSION
In a series of tweets, Bulatlat rejected its inclusion in Esperon’s list of websites for blocking, calling it a violation of its right to publish and of public’s right to free press and freedom of expression.
"Since June 17, our subscribers using Smart/PLDT as their ISP informed us that they cannot access our website, prompting us to reach out to the IT company to inquire about the incident," it said.
"Bulatlat, the longest-running and award-winning online media outfit and the authority in human rights reporting in the Philippines, condemns this brazen violation of our right to publish, and of the public’s right to free press and free expression," it said.
“Why are the powers that be so afraid of our truth-telling?”
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) slammed the development, noting that the addition of Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly in the list was "arbitrary."
The NUJP said the development could lead to a "gap in discourse" amid the enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism Law, given that the 2 independent media groups have existed "for years" with reporting focused on human rights issues.
"Sometimes, that reporting has been critical of government and its policies, but it is dangerous to equate this with affiliation or support that the government now claims," said NUJP.
"There was no notice given to the newsrooms and they were not given any opportunity to address the NSC's reckless claims. It is yet unclear whether they can appeal their inclusion and where they can do so," it added.
Malacañang said the parties whose websites were blocked could exhaust the available legal means.
"The recent move of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to block certain websites is upon the request of the National Security Council in performance of its mandate," said acting Palace spokesperson Martin Andanar.
"Legal remedies are available to any party, including online media outfit Bulatlat, affected by this action," he said in a statement.