Despite broad criticism from different progressive and human rights organizations, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon still wouldn’t budge, saying that his request, and the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) action, to block access to the websites of different organizations and alternative news sites is justified.
Esperon, with less than a week left in his term as the president’s chief security adviser and interim vice-chairperson of the Anti-Terror Council (ATC), said that he possesses intelligence information linking these organizations to the Communist Party of the Philippines–New Peoples’ Army—National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
“They’re saying that they have no connection. But I am the national security adviser, I have so much intelligence [information]. It is only the President who has better intelligence than mine,” Esperon told reporters in a National Security Council (NSC) event at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
In a letter dated June 8, the NTC ordered the country’s major internet service providers to deny access to the websites of 25 progressive organizations, of which two are alternative news sites.
‘Sows enmity, discord’
Esperon said that the two news sites included in the memorandum, Pinoy Weekly and Bulatlat, were publishing articles that are allegedly being “parroted by communist groups to recruit members.”
“This is controlling information that comes out of the public,” said the country’s chief security adviser. “This is not an issue of curtailing people’s right to freedom of expression and information—we are for it. But the information that we must put out of the public must be good for the public. This line should not be crossed by the [CPP-NPA-NDF] … which seeks to bring down the republic.”
Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana, in unison with Esperon, said that this is not a case of curtailing people’s right to freedom of expression and information, and that the government is merely preventing “disinformation against the government.”
By doing so, Lorenzana said that “disinformation would be lessened and prevent the recruitment of more youths. They are so gullible and susceptible to propaganda and information.”
‘Revoke the memorandum’
Different human rights groups and progressive organizations have spoken up against this issue.
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) National President, Edre Olalia, said this move is beyond the scope of power of the ATC, as even under the anti-terror law, it didn’t have the power to censor the websites and to “recklessly implicate and punish others not designated, proscribed or falling under any of its vast powers.”
“There is no ‘power’ to label (‘red-tag’ or ‘terrorist-tag’) individuals or organizations as ‘affiliated and supporting’ terrorism, terrorists or terrorist organizations,” Olalia said in a report by the Inquirer.
Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr. said that they are exploring their legal options to counter this move by the NSC and NTC.
Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments in politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. The views expressed are his own.
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