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The Philippine National Police’s complaint of sedition/inciting to sedition, cyber libel, libel, obstruction of justice, and harboring a criminal against lawyers, priests, Vice-President Leni Robredo, and several opposition candidates for senator in last May’s elections is likely to make it to the courts. If it does, it will be one more instance that critics of the Duterte regime can cite to validate their view that only an international body can check human rights abuses in the Philippines because the justice system is not working as it should.
The Parliament of Singapore passed a law against uploading and spreading false information last May. It requires online media platforms that any government ministry accuses of carrying “fake news” to correct or remove the offending material, and penalizes those responsible with 10-year prison terms and fines of up to S$1 million (about $740,000). The bad news is that the Philippine Congress could do the same thing.
The officials of the Duterte regime contradict themselves and each other daily and almost by the hour. They have, individually and collectively, outdone and are outdoing every other administration in the incoherence, contradictions, unreason, and non sequiturs of their declarations. A reality that is arguably as alarming as the lawlessness and the extrajudicial killings that are continuing to ravage the ranks of human rights defenders, political activists, and regime critics, it is specially evident in their foreign policy discourse.
Singapore passed early last May an anti-“fake news” law that will be implemented this month. The “Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation” Act gives government the power to compel online news sites and even chat groups to remove statements “against the public interest” and to correct them. Not only individuals will be affected but also social media and news organizations like BBC and Reuters.
The way the Philippine Party List System has worked, since it was created by the 1987 Constitution to assure “proportional representation” in the House of Representatives and the Party List Act ( Republic Act 7941) was passed in 1994, has provoked even the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consider asking Congress to amend the law. But it is unlikely that that body will do so -- at least not towards making it truly serve the voiceless and marginalized sectors of Philippine society.
The problematic -- and for many Filipinos, depressingly predictable -- results of the May 13 senatorial elections have provoked the usual mini-debate on whether the mass of the electorate is really so stupid as to vote against their own interests. They have after all elected, among others, accused plunderers, liars, supporters of tyrannical rule, opportunists, enforcers of extrajudicial killings, and, in general, the yes-men and chorus line of the Duterte regime.
The Philippines is one of the world’s most lawless countries. But it’s not because it has too few laws or none at all, but because it has too many that are often interpreted in favor of the powerful so as to bring about the exact opposite of their intention, are selectively implemented, or hardly enforced at all.
World Press Freedom Day has always been the occasion for responsible journalists to reexamine the state of one of the fundamental needs of ethical practice. This year as in 2018, May 3rd was not so much an occasion for celebration as for alarm. As in many other parts of the world, the independent press is under siege from a government that has made it its life work to harass, restrict, threaten and silence it, and to even arrest practitioners for daring to report the truth.
Why the seeming change in the Duterte regime’s response to Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea? Is it because it fears that mass opposition to its refusal to do anything to stop Chinese bullying could affect the chances of its candidates at both the national and local levels on May 13?
The public opinion surveys of the past year or so have confirmed that most Filipinos distrust China while wholeheartedly favoring the United States. Over a majority of the population are skeptical of the former’s intentions, and would like the Philippine government to do something about its occupation of the West Philippine Sea.
Now on its 26th year in the Philippines -- March 29, 2019 marked the 25th year since the country was “wired” into it -- the global communication network known as the Internet has been rightly hailed as another milestone in providing the perennial human need for information.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is expected to promote international understanding and defend Philippine sovereignty. It is also tasked with protecting Filipinos abroad. In its dealings with other countries, it is of course assumed that the DFA will enhance and defend Philippine interests through diplomatic means. But equally important is its affirmation in word and deed of the value and need for the country to honor its international commitments to human, civil and political rights.
DEBATES between candidates for public office are among the means some media and civil society organizations are using to help voters decide who deserve their support. They’re especially useful in the Philippines, where those running for this or that post are often hardly distinguishable from each other in terms of platforms and programs, if at all they have any.
TO BELIEVE and argue that black people are inherently violent or that all Jews are money-grubbing scoundrels is to presume that race is the determinant of certain vices and virtues. It is nothing but racism, and those who harbor that presumption qualify as racists.
ASKED if he caused the February 13 arrest of Rappler CEO and editor Maria Ressa, President Rodrigo Duterte said he had nothing to do with it, and that he did not “relish picking on her.” He also said he did not know Wilfredo Keng, whose complaint that he had been libeled by the online news site led to the Ressa arrest.
On July 23, 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 2 mandating public access to information held by the agencies and offices of the executive branch. The nongovernmental organizations that had been campaigning for a freedom of information (FOI) act for decades welcomed it with cautious optimism. The Executive Order (EO) encouraged the legislature and judiciary to do the same, but the FOI advocates nevertheless pointed out the need for a law that would cover all three branches of government.
Not even child rights advocates have been saying that children are incapable of committing crimes. Neither has anyone said that children are angels. But in reaction to Senator Risa Hontiveros’ opposition to the bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 12, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte made it seem as if those two assumptions were at the heart of the resistance to that outrage.
Should the media report everything government officials do and say for the sake of that elusive concept called “objectivity”? Philippine practice suggests that that’s what most journalists assume -- and that, no matter how erroneous, outrageous or potentially harmful the statements and actions of those sources may be, their responsibility ends with accurately quoting them.
Former President, and, since July of the year that’s about to end, Speaker of the House of Representatives Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was generous in her praise for her accomplices during her speech this Wednesday when the aptly named Lower House adjourned for the Christmas break.
The acquittal last week of former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., and his alleged accomplices’ being found guilty and sentenced to the mandatory penalty for plunder of reclusion perpetua (20 to 30 years’ imprisonment) has understandably raised doubts over the justice of the decision. Two of the five associate justices of the Sandiganbayan’s First Division that tried the case are even questioning the majority opinion.
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said a few days ago that those individuals and groups demanding the imprisonment of Imelda Marcos because of her conviction on seven counts of graft should be “fair” to the Marcos family matriarch by respecting her constitutional rights, among them her right to post bail.
Press freedom is protected by the 1987 Constitution because of the vital role of the news media in providing the information the citizenry needs in making intelligent decisions on matters of public interest. But despite Article III, Section 4, journalism is still a dangerous calling in the Philippines.
Denmark’s Ambassador to the Philippines said he “reads” the media, but has apparently been misreading them. He said “some media” are “systematically negative” in their reporting on the government, but his subsequent statements sounded as if he was describing most, or even all of them.
Those Filipinos aware of the record-breaking looting of the public treasury by the Marcos kleptocracy are hailing the Sandiganbayan’s conviction of Imelda Marcos on seven counts of graft. They had already lost hope that any of the billions diverted to Swiss bank accounts, real estate, and jewelry and art collections in Bern, Paris and other world capitals will ever be recovered, or that any form of legal retribution against the thieves is forthcoming, but have been heartened by the graft court’s decision 27 years after charges were filed against the Marcos family matriarch.
A “nuisance candidate,” to summarize what Section 69 of the Omnibus Election Code says, is someone who files a certificate of candidacy (CoC) with the intention of mocking the electoral process or putting it in disrepute; whose name is similar to that of other registered candidates and whom the electorate can therefore mistake for him or her; or who has no real intention to run for the office for which he or she filed a CoC.
The filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs) by those running for the Senate ended two days ago on Oct. 17. As usual, the media focused their attention on high-profile and so-called “nuisance candidates.” But they failed to mention that the outcome of the May 2019 elections, particularly for the House of Representatives and the Senate, will be crucial to the survival of this rumored democracy.
The spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in elaboration of the AFP chief-of-staff’s tale of a “Red October” leftist-rightist conspiracy to oust President Rodrigo Duterte from power, said last week that the country’s university and college students are being “brainwashed” into activism and radicalism.
It’s been two years and three months into the six-year term of the provincial despotism that became a national affliction in 2016 by promising to deliver the changes that have long eluded the Filipino people. It should be evident by now that it is at the very least underperforming -- or at the worst, rapidly bringing the entire country to ruin.
In the evening of Feb. 22, 1986, then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos announced that they were withdrawing their support for the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It was only a few hours after AFP Chief of Staff Fabian Ver had discovered and foiled their plan to storm Malacañang, oust Marcos, and replace him with a military junta.
Despite the bluster of President Rodrigo Duterte and his equally loud lieutenants, yes-men and accomplices in the Cabinet, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, his regime is in reality completely without anything that even approximates a rational and coherent platform of governance. It is making things up as it goes along, and patching together ad hoc attempts to make it seem as if it were addressing the urgent problems that haunt the nation, most of which are of its own making.