“We live in a time where truth is being undermined and where lies reign. In order for reason to triumph, we must fight for it.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Artists and journalists launched an alliance against attacks on free expression and free press this morning, Dec. 8 in Quezon City.
In a statement read by veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona, LODI (Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity) noted that the first year and a half of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government has seen “a flood of attacks on press freedom and freedom of expression.”
LODI said, “Duterte himself has led the assault, aided by a well-oiled machinery of disinformation peddlers and digital storm troopers.”
Early on his presidency, President Duterte justified the killings of journalists. Despite the formation of a task force mandated to investigate media killings, six journalists have been gunned down under the administration, of which four cases were said to be work related.
“Artists in all fields, journalists, and media workers do not exist in a vacuum. A society enveloped by fear and repression is inimical to the development of the arts and the press,” LODI said.
Other convenors include directors Joel Lamangan and Soc Jose, award-winning screenwriter Ricky Lee, theater actor Mae Paner (a.k.a Juana Change), playwright Frank Rivera, filmmaker Sari Dalena, ‘Respeto’ director Treb Monteras, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Manila Bulletin columnist and blogger Tonyo Cruz, National Book Awardee Kenneth Roland Guda, among others.
Film director Joel Lamangan said the attacks on civil liberties nowadays are worse than the attacks during martial law.
Lamangan, who was detained for four years under the Marcos dictatorship, said, “Ngayon wala ng hatol, baril na lang. Di na uso ang karsel. Uso na ngayon pinapatay.” (There are no court trials anymore; they just use their guns. Incarceration is no longer the preferred repressive method. They prefer to shoot people.)
Lamangan said the order to kill directly came from the President. Recently, Duterte ordered his troops to kill armed New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas. Three days ago, he declared the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA as terrorist organizations.
Lamangan said all critics of the Duterte administration “could be tagged as communists, and therefore they are considered terrorists.”
‘Respeto’ director Treb Monteras shared Lamangan’s fears, saying, “Ang Pilipinas ngayon ay isang malaking game show na kahit sino pwedeng maging contestant at ang grand prize ay hindi jacket kundi kamatayan.” (The Philippines has become a big game show where anybody could be a contestant, and the grand prize is not a jacket, but death.)
Role of artists and journalists
LODI vowed to expose the deceptions and work together in all fields of the arts and media, and reach out to all sectors, to reveal the harsh truths.
Lamangan said in Filipino, “We live in a time where truth is being undermined and where lies reign.” In order for reason to triumph, we must fight for it.”
Award-winning screenwriter Ricky Lee underscored that artists have the responsibility to educate their audience of their basic rights –including the right to state their own opinion without fear.
Mae Paner a.k.a Juana Change called on fellow artists to get involved. “Being an artist and doing my art is my protection. I will do it because it is my right as much as it is my duty,” she said.
Guda called on fellow journalists to cover and write about human rights violations under the Duterte administation.
LODI invited all journalists and artists to join the alliance to combat to government-led disinformation campaigns on all fronts.