What freedom of speech? Environment agency forbids employees from criticizing Duterte

A leaked memo from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that circulated yesterday showed one of its officials telling employees to refrain from criticizing the Duterte administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been observed that there are posts in the social media against the government regarding how it deals with the current situation in our country,” said the memo, which was signed by DENR Assistant Regional Director for Management Services Marcos Dacanay.

Read: I told you so? Duterte says he warned public about COVID-19, calls gov’t ‘desperate’

“In this regard, please advise all your employees, including those under Contract of Service, not to comment or post negative [comments] in the (sic) social media against the government. As a government employee, we should exemplify discipline to the community and promote cooperation to (sic) the government,” the memo said, which was addressed to “PENR Officers,” “CENR Officers,” and “All Regional Office Division Chiefs.”

DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said that the memo was real and that it was issued after some contractual employees expressed frustration with the government for implementing the Luzon-wide lockdown, which left them unemployed. However, the government had already released the salary of these employees in advance, so Antiporda believes that it was unfair for them to continue criticizing the government, reports The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“Our Asst. Secretary for Admin relayed the message…that Malacañang is monitoring their comments and is asking them not to post negative comments,” Antiporda told CNN Philippines in a separate interview in English and Filipino.

He insisted that they are not trampling on a person’s right to express himself, but employees should only post “constructive criticism.”

(Scratches head).

“Writing ‘Oust Duterte,’ I don’t think it’s fair. Being a government official or employee, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” Antiporda said.

Antiporda is referring to a popular hashtag, #OustDuterte, which often goes trending on the Philippine Twitter-verse when President Rodrigo Duterte says or does something that incites public outrage.

The island of Luzon, home to at least 63 million people, has been on lockdown since mid-March to curb the spread of COVID-19. The government announced today that the lockdown will end on April 30, and not April 12 as originally scheduled. Last night, the president said his government has become “desperate” in the face of the mounting problems caused by the pandemic.

This article, What freedom of speech? Environment agency forbids employees from criticizing Duterte, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!