Duterte administration is sworn enemy of the truth | Inquirer Opinion
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Duterte administration is sworn enemy of the truth

/ 04:01 AM June 24, 2020

The tree of Philippine democracy is nourished by the fearlessness of journalists such as Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr. Their conviction last June 15 for cyberlibel by Judge Rainelda H. Estacio-Monteza of Branch 46 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila strikes at the roots of our cherished liberties under the Bill of Rights. At no other time during our country’s history has freedom of the press come under such virulent attack, reminiscent of martial law during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

The Duterte administration has shown itself to be a sworn enemy of the truth. It has declared war on the institutions that are protected by the Constitution to keep all governments in check. One cannot swear fealty to defending the Charter while at the same time be responsible for violating it. Freedom of the press, regarded as among the preferred rights, consists of four dimensions: (1) the freedom against prior restraint; (2) the freedom against subsequent punishment; (3) the freedom of access to information; and (4) the freedom of dissemination. President Duterte has succeeded in transgressing all four.

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His threats to kill journalists, labeling them “corrupt” for being critical of his administration’s record of extrajudicial killings, has exerted a chilling effect on news organizations. He has barred reporters from attending media briefings at Malacañang. His officials have withheld vital data relative to his war on illegal drugs. He has used the judicial process to browbeat news organizations, from the Philippine Daily Inquirer to Rappler, and most notoriously, the television network ABS-CBN whose congressional franchise he peevishly refused to renew, which consequently has stopped airing, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of people during a pandemic.

In the most frightening development of all, he has before him, ready for his signature, a new anti-terrorism bill that will brand as enemies of the state those who dare to voice their opposition to his rule.

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We ought to remind ourselves that the freedom of the press is not for the benefit of journalists and their organizations: IT IS FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PEOPLE. The media are the people’s surrogates. They go where the people fear to go; they ask the questions the people are too timid to ask; they investigate what are concealed from the people. A free media is, and should remain, the people’s primary source of truth and information.

In seeking to control the news profession, or to muzzle its practitioners should they resist, the Duterte administration is blatantly imposing guardianship of the public mind. Under no circumstance should this be allowed, lest history repeat itself.

Sr. Mary John Mananzan
Convenor
Movement Against Tyranny

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TAGS: Duterte administration, Letters to the Editor, Mary John Mananzan, Movement Against Tyranny, Rodrigo Duterte
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