On Rizal Day, CEGP urges gov’t to repeal Cybercrime Law, respect freedom of speech

On the 116th  anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal’s martyrdom, the broadest and oldest alliance of campus publications urged Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s administration to “honor freedom of expression and respect the historical duty of the media to expose the truth.”

“The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) is one with the country in commemorating Dr. Rizal’s sacrifice and fearless journalism. He wrote about the rotten political and socio-economic system during his time and had relentlessly condemned the prevalent cleric-fascism and the policies of the colonial government. Now more than ever, we need modern day Rizals who will also speak about the injustice in this society and pierce through the misleading and sugarcoated statements of the current administration,” said Pauline Gidget Estella, national president of CEGP.

“If Dr. Rizal was living today, he would have berated the Aquino government for supporting laws that may suppress free speech, such as the Cybercrime Prevention Law. He would have condemned the government for keeping more than 300 political prisoners and at the same time claiming that it is committed to human rights,” said Estella, adding that Aquino, in several instances, lashed out at the media for “negative reporting,” notwithstanding the fact that they were just reporting the truth.

The Supreme Court oral arguments on the Cybercrime Law will begin in 16 days and the temporary restraining order is set to expire in February next year. CEGP and other sectoral groups are preparing for their activities against the implementation of the law.

“The Aquino government claimed that the passage of the Anti-Enforced Disappearances Act shows that it is indeed committed to the protection of human rights. Ironically, in the same month, 23 individuals were illegally arrested, including Randy Vegas, a staffer of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees and former officer of the CEGP,” said Estella.

Vegas and Raul Camposano were arrested last December 3 at Camarines Norte under trumped up charges of murder and theft and because the military accused them to have participated in an NPA operation.

“The only crime of these individuals is to articulate their criticisms against a government that should be criticized – mercilessly because the situation calls for it. Their only crime is to organize people into asserting their rights. Indeed, if Rizal was living today, he might be a political prisoner again,” said Estella.

“If the Aquino government really honors the ideals that Rizal espoused and was really sincere in its commemoration rites, then it should, by all means, heed the public clamor against the suppression of free speech under the Cybercrime Law and other policies similar to it. It must start addressing the root problems such as landlessness, instead of covering up for its incompetence. It should stop the crackdown on legal, progressive organizations. Otherwise, all these commemoration rites and statements of the government are all just superficialities,” said Estella. ###

(Photo credit goes to blog.mariyamakiling.com)