New York City - Tuesday, 25 February during the the 34th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Uprising, the Malaya Movement Northeast together with the NY Chapter of US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) and members of the “We Stand with ABS-CBN Coalition” gathered in a peaceful protest action in front of the NY Philippine consulate to defend press freedom and democracy by denouncing the Duterte government’s moves to shut down ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ largest media conglomerate. They stood with the 11,000 ABS-CBN workers whose livelihoods are at stake amidst the looming shutdown. Other New York Filipino community-based organizations such as BAYAN-USA, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, United Mothers of Marawi, and Damayan Migrant Workers’ Association also participated.
On the anniversary of EDSA, the protesters remembered “our kababayans, friends, and family who sacrificed dearly to fight for these rights and our democracy by toppling Marcos after twenty-one years of his despotic rule. Their sacrifices do not go unheeded as these are once again in the line of fire of Duterte’s relentless attacks.”
Loida Lewis, National chair of US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG), stated, “Duterte is following the playbook of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos wanted absolute power. Today, who wants absolute power in the Philippines? Duterte. Absolute power breeds absolute corruption. The first victim of absolute power is press freedom. When press freedom dies, democracy dies.”
|Loida Lewis, National chair of USPGG, and Gary Labao, Vice Chair of Migrante USA|
By participating in this global day of action, the Malaya Movement carried on the legacy of EDSA to resist any effort of the state that results in the curtailment of press freedom, free speech and the right to information of the Filipino people. Malaya Movement claimed, “President Rodrigo Duterte is silencing critical voices in the media and trampling on the rights of Filipino workers at home and abroad. He is encroaching on the public's access to information and the Filipino people’s right to the truth. To put it clearly: it is censorship.”
Gary Labao of Migrante-USA highlighted the importance of ABS-CBN to Filipino overseas workers and the impact that its closure would have. “Over 6,000 Filipino workers leave the Philippines everyday. For them, ABS-CBN and The Filipino Channel serves as a voice for the Filipino workers abroad. Because of their programs, migrant workers can still connect with home and address homesickness and depression.”
Labao further stated that “It gives them a platform to criticize the government and expose the conditions of the Filipinos working overseas. Duterte’s move to shutdown ABS-CBN is curtailing the Filipino people’s right to express our grievances, we will lose the voices of overseas Filipinos.” He continued, “Eleven thousand workers will lose their jobs. Duterte promised to improve the conditions of workers, to improve the economy. These are lies.” He also reiterated that position of Migrante USA to “Oust Duterte Now!”
“The attack on ABS-CBN is one out of over 150 attacks on the press, media outlets, and journalists under Duterte,” said Bernadette Patino of the Malaya Movement. “There has been the multiple arrests of Rappler CEO and Time Magazine Person of the Year, Maria Ressa, there has been cyber attacks and red-baiting of progressive media outlets and research institutes, there has been the spew of Duterte’s deliberate disinformation, there has been and tokhang-style summary executions of members of the press.” Patino exclaimed during her speech.
|Nicole Canete of Malaya Movement NE reading an open letter from Frenchie Mae Cumpio of the Tacoloban 5, and Bernadette Patino, Regional Coordinator of Malaya Movement NE|
She added that “Fourteen of the fifteen slain journalists under Duterte hail from Negros, Bicol, and Mindanao. This is no accident. Mindanao was under martial law for over 2 years; Negros, Bicol, and Samar are militarized due to Memorandum 32; in addition there is Oplan Kapanatagan and Executive Order 70. On paper these policies are supposed to ‘counter terrorism,’ but instead they have been used by Duterte to justify attacks, arrest, and murder human rights defenders and members of the press critical of his regime.”
The protesters also stated that “de facto martial law policies have created an atmosphere of violence, and there is no worse form of censorship than violence. Journalists and the press must be allowed to work in an environment free from fear and intimidation. To oppose Duterte’s de facto martial law policies is to defend press freedom and the people’s right to information.”
A very touching letter written by Frenchie Mae Cumpio, a young journalist part of the Tacloban 5 who faced illegal arrest earlier this month was also read by the participants. Cumpio reported on military attacks against civilians in Eastern Visayas for the independent media organization Altermidya. In her letter, she wrote, “We were just activists doing our normal work. We could have a better life like what people would say, but remembering the demolition threats among several barangays in Tacloban, the land grabbing cases in Tacloban and Leyte, the illegal arrests of farmers and other activists … We’d still make the choice we made years ago. Life behind bars is still better than not showing our love for this country.”
|Bernadette Ellorin, Spokesperson of BAYAN USA and Potri Ranka Manis of United Mothers of Marawi|
Remembering EDSA this week, the protesters find hope and inspiration. They believe it will take no less than people power to once again stop yet another dictatorship. Bernadette Ellorin, spokesperson of BAYAN-USA, emphasized the need for groups to unite in resisting Duterte. “The wave of authoritarianism has hit the Philippines once again under the Duterte regime. His campaign against ABS-CBN is part of Duterte’s war against the truth, against information, against his critics. He wants to control the minds of Filipinos to believe that there is no poverty in the Philippines. He wants us to believe that drugs are the main problem. In reality, the main problem in the Philippines right now is Duterte.”
Ellorin called on the Filipinos of all backgrounds who love democracy and sovereignty to struggle to unite. She said that “We must come together and unite because our country and our people are suffering under one of the biggest traitors of democracy today: Duterte. We must oust him.”
In closing, the members of the Malaya Movement Northeast called on the Filipino community to stand with all ABS-CBN and all Filipino journalists, artists, media workers, TV and radio broadcasting industry to defend and fight for the protection and sanctity of the Filipino peoples universal and constitutional right to freedom of speech, expression, and of the press. They also called on the community to stand together in unity against Duterte as we fight for the rights of the Filipino people, in the spirit of EDSA. The protest ended with the protesters singing the patriotic song “Ang Bayan Ko” with clenched fists raised in the air.
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