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Statement of the Consortium condemning the Cayetano Congress for damaging democracy, spreading disinformation

A national network of journalists, academics, and civil society representatives 

Condemn Cayetano Congress for damaging democracy, spreading disinformation

The Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation denounces the decision of the Committee on Legislative Franchises to reject a new franchise for the ABS-CBN network. Despite the manifest unfairness of the hearings conducted, and the miraculously efficient 40-page report the Technical Working Group released 24 hours or so after the last hearing, the Cayetano Congress could not and cannot stop the truth from coming out: Other government agencies proved that the main issues thrown at ABS-CBN were baseless.

For the Cayetano Congress to insist that these issues remain valid is to spread disinformation. 

The Department of Justice confirmed that network chair emeritus Gabby Lopez is a natural-born Filipino. The Securities and Exchange Commission testified that both ABS-CBN and GMA networks use Philippine Depositary Receipts and that they are not “evidence of ownership.” The National Telecommunications Commission acknowledged that ABS-CBN did not violate its franchise with its multiple TVPlus programs. The Bureau of Internal Revenue proved that the network had no tax delinquencies. The Department of Labor and Employment said in its opinion ABS-CBN was compliant with labor standards (although, to be certain, other labor issues remain). To insist, as Rep. Rodante Marcoleta has done and the TWG report smoothly rationalizes, that these statements from government agencies do not matter and only “the will of Congress” does is to abuse a power granted by the Constitution, in order to spread disinformation. 

The worst disinformation is to assert that denying the country’s largest news network a new franchise is not a press freedom issue. The TWG report itself devotes four pages to matters of editorial content: alleged “biased reporting, inappropriate program content and political meddling.” To insist, as the report does in its conclusion, that this is “in no way related to the freedom of the press” is to spread disinformation.

Insisting on the so-called will of Congress at the expense of the truth is an abuse of power that damages essential traditions and institutions: predictability of rules, accountability of government officials, evidence-based policy-making. The Cayetano Congress used this will to prevent a news organization, however imperfect, from speaking truth to power. That’s the truth.

Network condemns guilty verdict in cyber-libel case, says reasoning is based on falsehood, ignorance

Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation to cyber-libel judge: “KAYANG I-GOOGLE ‘to, Your Honor.”

Network condemns guilty verdict in cyber-libel case, says reasoning is based on falsehood, ignorance

hold the line

The Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation condemns the unjust, uncomprehending, unconstitutional decision in the cyber-libel case against Maria Ressa, Reynaldo Santos Jr., and Rappler. Presiding Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 has failed the Constitution, the rule of law, and the country’s long and proud tradition of defending the freedom of the press.

Continue reading “Network condemns guilty verdict in cyber-libel case, says reasoning is based on falsehood, ignorance”

NTC order shutting down ABS-CBN is “obscene, monstrous”

The Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation and its partners strongly condemn the cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission against ABS-CBN’s “various TV and radio broadcasting stations nationwide.” The May 5, 2020 order is a legal obscenity and a moral monstrosity.

The order, issued while the network’s franchise renewal is actively pending in Congress, runs counter to accepted practice and legislative tradition, undermines the public’s right to information especially during a grave public health emergency, and violates both letter and spirit of the Constitution.

The NTC bases its decision ostensibly on the fact that RA 7966, which granted the network a 25-year franchise, expired on May 4, 2020.

But the NTC conveniently forgot, under a long-standing legislative tradition, that other TV and radio stations were allowed to continue operations while their franchise renewal was pending in Congress.

The NTC conveniently forgot that on March 10, 2020, Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba promised Congress that it would grant the network a provisional authority while franchise renewal was pending. “May I assure this committee that barring a gross violation of its franchise of the NTC rules and regulations, the NTC will follow the latest advice of the DOJ and let ABS-CBN continue operations based on equity.” 

The NTC also conveniently forgot that on May 4, the same day RA 7966 was to lapse, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra issued “the latest advice of the DOJ”—specifically, that “the Department of Justice stands by its position that there is sufficient equitable basis to allow broadcast entities to continue operating while the bills for the renewal of their franchise remain pending with Congress.” This position even does away with the need for a provisional authority from the NTC altogether.

But under pressure from Solicitor General Jose Calida, the NTC decided to subvert congressional tradition, renege on its clearly stated promise, and ignore the legal position of the justice department. Out of convenience or cowardice, the NTC decided to violate the constitutional injunction against abridging freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press. Against its own word, the NTC decided to subvert the fundamental principle of equity.

This outrageous conduct cannot be understood apart from the wider context of the Duterte administration’s war on the media: the harassment of Rappler, the bullying of the Inquirer, the attacks against VERA Files and PCIJ, the red-tagging of and cyber-attacks against alternative news groups and the arrests of some of their journalists, the state-sponsored trolling of independent media. If the nation will allow an unjust ABS-CBN shutdown to stand, we should all expect increased media harassment, more widespread and more malevolent disinformation, worse obscenities committed against journalism in the name of “the law.”

The Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation—a nationwide network of journalists, scholars, bloggers, and civil society representatives—joins other freedom-loving Filipinos in condemning the NTC order, in clamoring for the immediate passage of a new legislative franchise for ABS-CBN, and in calling for the NTC and the Office of the Solicitor General to be held to the strictest account.

Stand with ABS-CBN. No to ABS-CBN shutdown. Defend Press Freedom.

Continue reading “NTC order shutting down ABS-CBN is “obscene, monstrous””

The Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation issues statement on the ‘Oust-Duterte matrix’

Below is the official statement of the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation on the ‘Oust-Duterte matrix’.


The full text of the statement is below:

The members and partners of the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation denounce the latest round of attacks on journalists including Maria Ressa, Ellen Tordesillas and Inday Espina Varona and on news organizations including VERA Files, Rappler, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. The orchestrated nature of these attacks was betrayed by their coordinated launch starting on Easter Monday by the President’s propagandist and on various government-controlled or –influenced channels.

The accusation is unwarranted: None of the individuals and organizations are involved in any ouster plot against the President. (The Armed Forces of the Philippines has already belied any such ouster plot; certainly, none that involves the media.)

But the type of accusation is clear and clearly dangerous: It is meant to target legitimate journalists, and thus to undermine journalism itself. The so-called “matrix” is a perversion of “intelligence” work, pretending to serve national security by faking intelligence analysis against made-up targets. Worse, it forms part of a pattern of harassment and intimidation against the legitimate media that started in 2016; already a new weapon against journalists, in the form of supposed concerns about the possible abuses of foreign funding, is being readied.

We denounce these attacks in the strongest terms. We deplore the use of the office of the presidency to lie to the citizenry; we censure the phony narrative of treachery being supposedly leveled against the person of the president, that may be used at any time to justify draconian measures; we condemn all attempts to undermine the work of journalism.

The ridiculous “matrix” accusation saw print as the Consortium was holding its Second Conference on Democracy and Disinformation. This newest big lie was immediately self-evident to the assembly of media, academic, and civil society partners discussing the impact of disinformation on democratic decay. The attacks on Tordesillas, Varona, VERA Files, Rappler, and PCIJ by an administration hostile to the professional functions of truthful reportage in a democracy intends to straitjacket democracy: It means to pull down the fact-checkers of Facebook. It broadens the scale of the administration’s war against press freedom and freedom of expression. It replays old authoritarian techniques for the suppression of truth-telling.

That the lie is so transparent and the machinations so inept insults all Filipinos. The barefaced nature of the falsehood is obvious. But what is even more exposed than all that is the increasing momentum by which impunity is wielded by a government at war with its own people.

In calling out the administration for yet another deliberate release of disinformation, the members and partners of the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation appeal to both the guarantees of freedom of expression and press freedom found in the Constitution, and to the natural desire of free peoples everywhere to defend their freedom, beginning with their freedom to tell the truth.

As the former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales reminded our conference: “Our democracy is sick and truth-telling is the only antidote.’

#FightDisinfo #DefendPressFreedom #DefendDemocracy

01 May 2019