JOURNALISTS wearing black shirts, together with members of progressive organizations and representatives from the Catholic Church, joined the protest held at the Fountain of Justice on Friday night in Bacolod City.
About 50 protesters called on the government to uphold press freedom as they held streamers bearing messages like “Defend Press Freedom,” “No to Media Crackdown,” “Resist,” “Fight Tyranny,” “No to Dictatorship,” “Stand with Rappler,” “We will not be Silenced,” and “Don’t Gag the Press.”
The group also lighted candles and staged a noise barrage.
Malacañang on Friday said it respects the decision of journalists and press freedom advocates to stage “Black Friday Protests for Press Freedom” following the revocation of news site Rappler's registration.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the protest actions initiated by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and will start later today "is a testament that freedom is alive and democracy is alive in the Philippines."
"The Palace position on the matter remains clear and consistent: We allow public displays of constructive criticism as part of full exercise of the protesters' right to express their grievances," the presidential spokesman said in a statement.
Fr. Chris Gonzales, head of Social Action Center of the Diocese of Bacolod, likened the situation to an ugly person who hates to see his reflection in the mirror.
“It’s not the fault of the mirror that you are ugly, as it only reflects your true physical being,” he said.
He said the media only report what is seen in its surroundings, and “if it is horrible, it’s not its fault as it is only telling the truth.”
This administration hates everything that tells the truth, he said.
Inday Espina-Varona, convenor of media and artists alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity, said the government is trying to silence the media because they have a plan to change the Constitution “to deprive us our basic human rights.”
The government claimed the proposed constitutional amendments aims to eradicate poverty, but the truth is, they want to give the nation to the foreigners, she added.
NUJP-Bacolod Chapter said in a statement that “in the past days, we're hounded by the news about our colleagues in the media industry – the revocation of Rappler's registration by the Securities and Exchange Commission due to its alleged foreign ownership and the shutting down of Interaksyon.com. This, in a way, is demoralizing.”
The group added it is clear harassment and intimidation to the media.
In Manila, the NUJP said it will announce upcoming activities that will discuss and map out what needs to be done to defend the country and people from the Duterte administration's "sinister plans."
"Who will be next? The threatened closure of Rappler has proven that Rodrigo Duterte and his minions will stop at nothing to shut down critical voices even as they rush to amend the Constitution to produce an abomination that will not only perpetuate themselves in power but emasculate our rights and liberties," the NUJP said.
"We cannot allow this to happen," it added.
The protest action came after the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled on January 11 to revoke Rappler's certificate of incorporation for alleged violation of the constitutional provision limiting the media entities' ownership to Filipinos.
Rappler had said the SEC's ruling proved the current administration's "pure and simple harassment" against journalists.
But President Rodrigo Duterte, in a speech delivered on Tuesday, January 16, denied a hand in the closure order.
“We never had the hand and I don’t give a s*** if you continue or not continue with your network,” Duterte said in an event held in Pasay City.
Roque guaranteed that authorities would observe "maximum tolerance" during the conduct of protests.
"Authorities, as a matter of standard operating procedure, will observe maximum tolerance and respect the protesters' right to peaceful assembly," he said. (SunStar Philippines with reports from Marchel P. Espina)