Photo by Migui Sunga
Text by Kristel Limpot
48 years after the historic First Quarter Storm that saw the youth rise against the repressive policies of Ferdinand Marcos’ regime, protesters gathered on Friday to condemn the similar series of attacks against the people now launched by the Duterte administration.
“Ang mga issue noon ay gano’n parin hanggang ngayon,” said writer-director and former student activist Boni Ilagan in a protest held at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Ilagan also called the administration’s spate of extrajudicial killings, anti-people policies, and attempts to silence critical voices reminiscent of the Martial Law era.
In a 29-page decision released last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ordered the revocation of news organization Rappler’s license to operate, accusing them of violating the Constitution by allegedly allowing foreign control over its corporate affairs.
Rappler, however, has been firm in saying they are wholly Filipino-owned and that their foreign investors have no say on the company’s operations.
Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI), an artists and media alliance dedicated to upholding freedom of expression, denounced this decision, tagging it as “politically-motivated” and a clear attack on press freedom.
“We cannot look at SEC’s decision outside of the political events. This is an attack, since the President and his supporters have long been lambasting and harrassing Rappler for being critical of the administration,” said blogger and newspaper columnist Tonyo Cruz.
Besides Rappler, other media organizations are also experiencing looming threats on their right to report freely.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself has frequently threatened media entities and has called journalists “bastos” for writing pieces critical of his administration.
He has previously decried the Philippine Daily Inquirer after it has published the infamous Pieta-like front page photo of a war on drugs victim, as well as a series of articles on the administration’s bloody crackdown on narcotics.
Months later, the Inquirer was sold to businessman Ramon Ang, a close friend of the President.
Earlier this week, online news site VERA Files also went down after they released a story regarding the Duterte family’s failure to disclose their investments.
Tinig ng Plaridel itself has not been spared from threats made by Facebook trolls after publishing articles and photos on protests against Duterte.
Progressive student organizations also rallied against the newly-implemented Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, which leaves poor families at an even greater disadvantage as they are forced to endure the resulting price hike in basic commodities.
The law is said to benefit the Filipinos as it exempts from income tax those with an annual income of P250,000 or less.
However, according to IBON Foundation, as much as 15.2 million families will not be getting these tax exemptions, since most of them are minimum wage earners or are otherwise working in informal work with low incomes.
UP professor Danilo Arao urged the students to keep the vigorous spirit of youth activism present during the Marcos regime alive and to safeguard our nation’s democratic rights.
“Magkaisa tayo sapagkat tayo ay armado ng pinakamatalas na antas na pagsusuri hinggil sa nangyayari sa ating lipunan,” said Arao.