Philippine anti-terrorism law

IBP: NSC embarrassed Duterte gov’t with baseless bid to shut down websites

Rambo Talabong
IBP: NSC embarrassed Duterte gov’t with baseless bid to shut down websites
'The NSC’s letter-request, bereft of legal basis, only serves to embarrass the outgoing administration and, with less than eight days before the inauguration, tie the hands of its successor,' says the Integrated Bar of the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)on Saturday, June 25, issued a strongly worded statement against the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the National Security Council (NSC) for blocking progressive websites without basis.

“The NTC has no power to restrict access to news websites and members of the press based on mere allegations,” the NTC said in a statement.

“To take down the websites is to muzzle their owners. Such a drastic move can’t be anchored on statements that in court would be treated as hearsay,” it added.

IBP issued the statement in response to the decision of the NTC to take down 28 websites, upon the request of the NSC, after the latter linked them to the New People’s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines.

In its request to the NTC, the NSC merely claimed that the websites were linked to the CPP and NPA, citing the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA) as basis for the request even though the groups behind the websites have not been designated as terrorist groups.

“This baseless order endangers not only the liberty of the press, but also the legitimate activities of human rights advocates and other progressive groups. The NTC’s order silenced nuns, priests, and reporters. Are lawyers next? Will the IBP’s website be shuttered for aiding those at the margins of society if some of them are tagged as ‘affiliates’?” the IBP said in its statement.

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The IBP added, “The NSC’s letter-request, bereft of legal basis, only serves to embarrass the outgoing administration and, with less than eight days before the inauguration, tie the hands of its successor.”

The IBP, which noted that the Supreme Court has affirmed the constitutionality of the anti-terror law’s designation process, urged the NSC “to use the fruits of this victory and file the proper cases and requests for designation, instead of resorting to censorial shortcuts.”

It also said that “the only effect of designation under Section 25 of the ATA is to subject the organization to the AMLC’s freeze authority.”

The IBP is the latest group of lawyers to condemn the development, after legal rights groups and former Supreme Court senior justice Antonio Carpio.

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Meanwhile, the NDFP WebMedia Group, which was among those affected by the NTC website shutdown, said in a statement on Saturday that its websites are back online. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.