A campus journalist was asked to publicly apologize for his critical remarks against the government amid the enhanced community quarantine.
This is the third incident perceived to be a suppression of speech during the Luzon-wide quarantine period.
According to reports, Joshua Molo, editor-in-chief of the University of the East’s official student publication “Dawn,” drew the ire of his former teachers in Nueva Ecija after he criticized the government for its COVID-19 efforts on a Facebook post. This post had since been deleted.
Twenty-year-old Molo then appeared on a video uploaded on Facebook and Twitter apologizing to his teachers for the sentiments he shared against them on social media.
“Bilang estudyante at mamamayan, naniniwala ako na ang pag-unlad ay matatamo sa maraming paraan. Maaaring ang paniniwala ng isa ay naiiba ngunit ‘di ibig sabihin nito ay mali. Inaamin ko po na ako ay nagkamali, at hindi na muling mauulit ang pangyayari,” he said on the video.
The official page of UE Dawn denounced the “forced apology” of Molo and the actions against him and dismissed them as “attacks” against press freedom, provided by the Constitution.
Article III, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines states that:
“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
“Preventing someone from expressing his or her opinion on matters such as grievances against the government is an act of oppression. We, the members of the UE Dawn, strongly believe that to criticize the government is a right of every Filipino,” the UE Dawn said.
UE DAWN STATEMENT | We in the Dawn, the official student publication of the University of the East (UE), condemn in the…
Joel Pablo Salud, author and editor-in-chief of the Philippine Graphic Magazine, aired his dismay over the teachers’ moves, noting that these were the people who earlier taught Molo how to be a journalist.
“Is this the kind of system these teachers are propagating–coercion, intimidation, harassment of those who will exercise their right to free speech? To make matters more disturbing, these teachers were allegedly his former Campus Journalism instructors in high school,” Salud said on Facebook.
“This nation’s rich legacy of free speech among its young people is clearly under threat. But it will be a cold day in hell before we give in to silence,” he added.
Veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona likewise condemned the teachers and barangay official’s move against Molo and said they violate his “constitutional right to free expression.”
“Anyone can file for libel if he or she feels a person has falsely and maliciously attacked personal reputation. But the barangay’s response to the complaint went way beyond the bounds of this particular dispute,” Varona said.
“Barangays have powers to mediate problems. But officials were wrong in coercing submission on issues way beyond the specific complaint. Threatening Molo with arrest on grounds of anti-government sentiment is a violation of his constitutional right to free expression,” she also said.
This was also echoed by human rights monitor Karapatan in a statement. It said that “anyone who wishes to express dismay over government’s actions “should never be threatened and penalized.”
“We are alarmed on this incident as it is a case of curtailment of the right to free expression. Karapatan would like to remind authorities that the right to free speech is protected by the Philippine Constitution and international human rights instruments,” Jose Mari Callueng, Karapatan National Council member at-large said.
Molo later thanked those who supported him in a tweet, adding the hashtag #defendpressfreedom: “I am more than proud. Thank you, everyone!”
I am more than proud. Thank you, everyone!#defendpressfreedom
— Joshua Molo (@JoloMowlz) April 5, 2020
Story behind Molo’s controversial post
When Molo first shared his views on his Facebook account, some of his former high school and elementary teachers allegedly mocked him on the comments section.
He then took screenshots of these and shared them on Instagram Stories, where he also expressed his disappointment over their comments. He said that they were his former campus journalism teachers.
Molo also shared the less favorable situation of his family when the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine was imposed.
“I spent more than half of my savings already, so don’t tell us na masyado pa kaming bata. Baka masyado lang kayong okay na sa buhay niyo, kasi may nakakain kayo everyday,” part of his post on IG Stories read.
This prompted one of the teachers to threaten filing a cyber libel case against him at the barangay hall in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija.
Molo, accompanied by his mother, was brought to the barangay hall at 1 pm last Sunday. His mother also happened to be a barangay officer.
In an ABS-CBN interview, Molo said his mother initially asked him to only post the apology online and not record a video of it to avoid further embarrassment. However, his mother was also threatened to be accused of the same case.
“I was asked either itutuloy nila ‘yung kaso or I will do a public apology. Since my family po cannot afford to have a lawyer and to counter the case, we don’t have the resources for that, I opted to do a public apology,” he said.
He was also told that the Philippine National Police have already checked his account and he was also tagged as a leftist.
Last March 25, the editor-in-chief of Today’s Carolinian (TC), the official student paper of the University of San Carlos in Cebu, also experienced the same circumstance after he was invited by Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia to discuss a recent opinion piece published by TC.
The editorial criticized Garcia for supposedly forming a “unit” to trace those who vocalize their online dissent against her policies.
Garcia then placed a comment under the post, summoning the campus paper’s editor-in-chief Berns Mitra, to her office to discuss the matter.
“This so you can further elucidate on what you must believe is your ‘erudite’ opinion about my actions and decisions,” Garcia said in her reply.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines National President Daryl Angelo Baybado said that the government should focus on their response efforts to health crisis rather than making these charges.
“Instead of filing nonsensical criminal charges, the government should work on improving a coordinated and sustained public information campaign and immediately deliver economic assistance and services to everyone,” Baybado said.
𝗔𝗟𝗘𝗥𝗧: Joshua Molo, editor-in-chief of UE Dawn, the official student publication of the University of the East, was…
In relation to this, Filipino rapper Brandon Perang, known as “Boy Pakyu,” also made a public apology after Garcia specifically called him out in a live press conference last March 24.
Perang in a now-deleted Facebook post cursed at government officials for implementing a curfew. He and other artists were supposed to hold a “rap battle” despite the ban on social gatherings.