by Alyssa Beatrice S. Flores
The free press serves as a system of checks and balances between the people and the government. Without it, democracy will not function properly; an uninformed citizenry could be ruled more quickly because they will not question authority.
Ironically, President Rodrigo Duterte’s approach towards the recent ABS-CBN franchise shutdown resembles Ferdinand Marcos’ first steps after declaring Martial Law — to get rid of media outlets that go against him. The freedom and right to information are being suppressed, and it seems as if our democracy is weakening.
One of his main reasons in attempting to shut down the franchise is simple: some of his advertisements during the election period in 2016 was not aired, sparking hashtags such as #YesToABSCBNShutdown, trended by his supporters.
When it comes to implementing laws, they can be de jure or de facto, or in simpler terms, regulations that exist officially, or regulations that happen in reality but are not legally recognized. At this point, given the circumstances we are given under the Duterte administration, we can say that we are under a de facto Martial Law.
A 2019 report by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Philippine Press Institute, MindaNews, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), 12 media practitioners had been killed from the beginning of Duterte’s term up to October 2018. And now, an entire franchise could potentially be shut down simply because some of his ads were not aired for a valid reason: he was beyond the time limit.
These are just a few out of many blatant cases of suppression under his rule.
The filing of the quo warranto petition against the network might have awakened the hearts and minds of many Filipinos — they protested alongside ABS-CBN employees with placards proclaiming their rights to expression and information. It’s just that I don’t think it’s enough.
Filipinos should acknowledge the problem and seek justice. It is the job of a democratic citizenry to speak against possible threats to their freedom. After all, everyone benefits from the press, even those who oppose it due to “bias.”
One should always remember that when the press loses its freedom, the truth can easily be kept from the people. I hope that this situation will serve as a wake-up call for everyone to realize the dictator-like actions of the president and defend the media from it. Are we going to wait for more journalists and oppositions to be terrorized, just for voicing out their ideas?
We are not slaves to our government — we are the ones who gave them power.
Defend, unite, and stand for press freedom. Let us all learn from history.