MANILA — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday rallied behind National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. whose request to block access to websites of communist groups and other entities was recently enforced by the National Telecommunications Commission.
"I am in agreement with Sec. Esperon," said Lorenzana when asked for a reaction on the development which some groups say was an attack on free expression and freedom of the press as some alternative media were included in it.
"We are not against free speech, in fact we encourage and protect it. It is disinformation against the government that we are against," Lorenzana told reporters.
Websites of nearly 30 entities, including of the Communist Party of the Philippines, CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines, as well as of some progressive groups and alternative media became inaccessible from some internet service providers on orders of the NTC.
Esperon, as head of the National Security Council, asked for such action from the NTC in a letter dated June 6, as the websites were allegedly "affiliated to and are supporting these terrorists and terrorist organizations."
In defending the NSC and NTC, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, who also acts as spokesman of the anti-communist insurgency task force, said the legal basis in restricting the websites is Republic Act No. 11479 or The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, particularly Section 2 of the law.
On those complaining there is curtailment of freedom of speech, Malaya said, “Some types of speech may be subjected to some regulation by the State under its police power, in order that it may not be injurious to the equal right of others or those of the community or society."
Representatives of some organizations covered by the order blasted the government for denying them due process, failing to present evidence of their allegation, and red-tagging them.
The CPP denounced the move, saying it was 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 "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
Alternative media Pinoy Weekly said blocking their websites was a violation of their right to publish and of the public’s right to free press and freedom of expression.
"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," Bulatlat earlier said.
“Why are the powers that be so afraid of our truth-telling?”
Bulatlat managing editor Len Olea said they are considering legal remedies.
Lorenzana said the blocking spree will lead to the decline of disinformation and "prevent the recruitment of more youths [in the communist movement]."
"They are so gullible and susceptible to propaganda and disinformation," he said.
When asked if the move will contribute to the defeat of the New People's Army, Lorenzana said, "Definitely."
The armed conflict between the communist revolutionaries and the Philippine government has been ongoing for over 5 decades now and is considered one of the longest armed insurgencies in the world.
The Anti-Terrorism Council had designated the CPP, NPA NDF and several other personalties as terrorists.
— with reports from Rowegie Abanto, Mike Navallo and Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News