NTC Circular Vs Broadcasters Denounced; Duterte Calls It Wrong, Very Stupid

Mar. 06, 2006

By Cheryll D. Fiel and Germelina A. Lacorte

DAVAO CITY Wrong. Very stupid. Very gray.

These were the reactions by Davao officials to the reported National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) circular banning broadcasters from using anonymous sources in their newscasts and reports.

The circular, which the NTC disclosed on Saturday, was just the latest in the governments alleged efforts to control the Philippine press, despite the lifting of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos Proclamation 1017 that many critics said specifically targeted the media.

The NTC reportedly issued a circular officially adopting the guidelines, supposedly drawn up by the industry group Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP), among them that a station may not broadcast news to which it cannot attribute a source.

Although confidential sources can still be used, the circular requires stations to corroborate the information these sources give out. The NTC reportedly issued the circular so as to prevent those who want to topple governments from exploiting the broadcast stations.

The same circular, according to a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Sunday, disallows public-affairs and commentary programs that are designed primarily to malign, unfairly criticize or attack.

Broadcasters warned that the NTC circular was apparently designed to muzzle the press and control the broadcast content. This is worse than Marcos, said Mario Maximo Solis, station manager of RMN-DXDC, the most popular AM station in the city and in the region. This means Proclamation 1017 was not really lifted because the intent to control the press remains, said Solis, who host a morning show on his station.

Bong Aportadero, the chairman of KBPs Davao chapter, told Davao Today that he had not yet read the circular but wondered why it was being pushed now. Were wondering why this is so sudden. Why are they pushing this now? The impression we get is they are dictating, he said, referring to the NTC. We are questioning the timing and the circumstances around it. Is this a prelude to martial law?

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, in his TV program Sunday morning, called the NTC circular wrong and very stupid. It is not in the Constitution. They cannot just invent things, he said.

Rep. Prospero Nograles of the citys first district called the circular very grey. We have sufficient laws for that, he said in Dutertes TV program. You can file a libel suit but you cannot prevent that (anonymous sources) Only if the media is being used to destabilize the government.

The NTC circular came on the heels of protests by members of the media at what they believed to be an assault by the Arroyo administration on press freedom. Since declaring Proclamation 1017, the government has raided the offices of the pro-opposition paper Daily Tribune, put journalists under surveillance, threatened critical media of closure or government takeover, and suggested the issuance of guidelines apparently like the NTCs that journalists should follow.

The Communist Party of the Philippines, which has managed over the years to relay its messages to the public mainly through the broadcast networks, decried the NTC circular as fascist censorship.

Through the circular, Arroyo has beefed up its arsenal of truth-suppressing instruments, said Roger Rosal, the partys spokesman. In a statement, he urged media outlets to unite against the NTC circlar that serve to suppress media and the freedom of expression. There is need to vigilantly defend the freedom of expression and civil liberties that the Arroyo regime is bent on curtailing in its desperation to perpetuate itself in power.

Since last week, journalists from around the country held protest rallies to defy Proclamation 1017, which also was used by the government to justify the arrest of several leftist congressmen.

According to its critics, the Arroyo administration only lifted the proclamation once it was clear that the protests would continue, although the government insists that it lifted the state of emergency declaration because the alleged coup threat had died down.

But even within the administration, some Arroyo allies were convinced that the crackdown on the press was ill-advised. Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, an economic adviser to and a political ally of Arroyo, called the crackdown a clumsy and silly mistake.

Media practitioners in Davao said the lifting of Proclamation 1017, which was declared by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Feb. 24, has not removed the threats on Filipino journalists and on press freedom itself, media practitioners in this city said over the weekend.

Last week, the government said it would continue monitoring members of the media for possible seditious content, despite the lifting of Proclamation 1017. The government sought to allay fears among the press. Anyone practicing responsible journalism has nothing to fear, Arroyos spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said on Saturday.

In a statement on the lifting of Proclamation 1017, the NUJP said the media should not lower their guards. It demanded that national police chief Arturo Lomibao withdrew all the threats he has earlier made on media institutions and that the NTC withdraw all orders controlling the broadcast of news and media affairs.

The group also called on Arroyo to categorically announce that government will respect the peoples constitutional right to a free press.

Meanwhile, Nelson Canete, vice chair of the Davao chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), said the threat against broadcasters and print journalists were already there even before Proclamation 1017. We will continue to shout for freedom of the press at all times, at all cost, Canete said.

As of January 21 this year, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported 75 journalists killed in the country since the Edsa revolt of 1986, which was supposed to have restored democracy after two decades of martial rule. Most of the killings, 38 of which occurred since Arroyo assumed power in 2001, remained unsolved.

Davao City police chief Conrado Laza said there was no order to deploy troops to media establishments in the city, as happened in Manila, although several radio stations reported seeing suspicious plainclothesmen roaming around their stations. As long as youre not doing anything against the country, just continue doing your job, Laza told reporters last week.

Laza also denied rumors that eight Davao media personalities were allegedly on the watch list of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group. (Cheryll D. Fiel and Germelina A. Lacorte/davaotoday.com)

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