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NTC blocks 24 websites

The NTC, in the same letter, asked the service providers to submit reports on the action they took in connection with the directive five days upon receipt

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The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered Internet service providers to block 24 websites of progressive groups and alternative news sites, which National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. linked to communists-terrorists.

He asked the NTC to block the sites of Save Our Schools Network, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Pamalakaya Pilipinas, BAYAN, news outfits Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly, among others
“With reference to the letter dated 6 June 2022 by the National Security Council, you are hereby directed to effect the immediate blocking of the reported websites found to be affiliated to and are supporting terrorist and terrorist organizations,” NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba wrote in his letter to Internet service providers dated 8 June.

The NTC, in the same letter, asked the service providers to submit reports on the action they took in connection with the directive five days upon receipt.

Esperon’s letter referred to the said groups as “affiliated to and are supporting these terrorists and terrorist organizations,” without offering evidence that these were linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA).

He merely cited previous Anti-Terrorism Council resolutions designating Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA and its political wing National Democratic Front of the Philippines as terrorists.

The Justice Department, which crafted the implementing rules of the Anti-Terror Law that paved the way for the designation of communist terrorists, did not answer directly whether the measure allows Esperon’s actions.

“Our position on the matter of the effects of designation has always been very clear,” said Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay, without being categorical.

“These questions, in my opinion, should be directed to the National Security Council. Please note that the request in question emanated not from the Anti-Terrorism Council, but from the National Security Council,” he added.

Sugay earlier said that the only effect of the terrorist designation was the freezing of assets.

The Department of Justice is a member of the Anti-Terrorism Council, which is composed of government security agencies that are mandated to designate terrorist groups or individuals.
Esperon is vice chairperson of the said council.

Several of the listed websites were inaccessible as of Wednesday morning.

Groups hit back

Reacting to NTC’s move, Bulatlat condemned the commission and Esperon for allegedly violating their right to free speech and free press as provided for under the Philippine Constitution.

The Altermidya Network, of which Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly are members, called on the NTC to reverse the order.

“This is a brazen violation of media freedom and the public’s right to information,” it said in a statement. “It sets a very alarming precedent for independent journalism and media freedom.”
BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes also said that such orders from Esperon and NTC were baseless and an attack on free speech.

“No specific offense or evidence was ever cited to justify the blocking of Bulatlat et al. except for the Anti-Terrorism Council resolutions that do not pertain to Bulatlat et al.,” he said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also expressed concern, saying it was another dimension to the government’s “outrageous, rights-abusing efforts to red-tag and harass civil society actors, including journalists and activists.”

“This is nothing less than a brazen attempt to undermine them and censor these media outlets and groups. What’s astonishing is how easily the government escalates its defamatory rhetoric, moving from red-tagging them to classifying them as terrorists, in effect terrorist-tagging them,” said HRW’s deputy director in Asia Phil Robertson.

Malacañang said the NTC’s move was “upon the request” of the National Security Council in the performance of its mandate.

“Legal remedies are available to any party, including online media outfit Bulatlat, affected by this action,” said presidential spokesperson Secretary Martin Andanar.

Very effective

Meanwhile, Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Wilbur Mamawag said that Ending the Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC), borne out of the Executive Order (EO) 70 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte, has been very effective with government agencies and local government unit cooperation.

Mamawag made the remarks during his live interview as a resource person at the “Talakayan sa PIA: ELCAC Series” organized by the Philippine Information Agency Region 10 on Thursday, 16 June at the SM Mall Uptown in Cagayan de Oro City.

The event centered on the efficiency of NTF ELCAC in the 4th Infantry Division’s campaign in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.

Mamawag explained that the EO 70 is the convergence of efforts that brings all government agencies and local government units together under the principle of whole-of-nation approach to address insurgency.

“EO 70 allows government agencies to re-prioritize and focus its resources to conflict-affected communities including geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, in terms of high-impact projects and services such as but not limited to health, education and road networks,” he said.

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