Accountability sought over NTF-ELCAC 'black propaganda' vs ABS-CBN, Rappler's Ressa

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Accountability sought over NTF-ELCAC 'black propaganda' vs ABS-CBN, Rappler's Ressa
Employees and supporters light candles at the gate of the the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City on May 5, 2020.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Within days of the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, journalists and media groups condemned what they said was black propaganda being peddled by the government's anti-communist task force against members of the media, including broadcast giant ABS-CBN.

The statement comes a day after the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict incorrectly claimed in a series of graphics that ABS-CBN's "request for franchise renewal was disapproved" as a result of numerous legal issues—previously addressed at a Senate hearing and in a pleading at the Supreme Court—that were raised against the network.

The Palace communications team, which is itself a member of the NTF-ELCAC, has since washed its hands of the social media post that it shared on its official Facebook page.

READ: Anti-communist task force, PCOO spread false claims on ABS-CBN franchise

The anti-communist task force also accused Rappler CEO Maria Ressa of spreading "fake news" when she mistakenly said on ABC News that ABS-CBN has 11 million workers instead of 11,000.

She apologized for the lapse on Saturday morning, saying she had made a mistake and that her "mind raced ahead to market cap when I was there, which was in hundreds of millions of dollars."

"The constant government attacks have chipped away 67% of its stock price," Ressa, a former head of ABS-CBN News, said.

READ: House inaction led to ABS-CBN shutdown — FLAG

The statement, signed by an initial 64 individuals and 24 organizations, said the "Facebook posts, while they have been taken down, are a brazenly criminal abuse of authority on the part of the NTF-ELCAC, replete with half-truths and outright lies that willfully endanger Maria and the management and personnel of the network that government shut down." 

"The only reason we can think of why a government entity tasked to combat the communist insurgency would wage a propaganda offensive against media persons and outfits is if government now considers us the enemy."

"In fact, General Antonio Parlade, NTF-ELCAC spokesman, indicated as much. In a May 8 Philippine News Agency report, while insisting that press freedom was alive in this country, also warned critics of the ABS-CBN shutdown: 'Yes to law and order! Otherwise you might just get the martial law that you deserve.'," the statement also reads.

The statement also noted that while Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar has disavowed the posts PCOO shared, "neither did he apologize for his agency’s involvement nor even promise an investigation to identify those responsible for this reprehensibly irresponsible action."

Shrinking space for fundamental freedoms

The NTF-ELCAC is an attached task force under the Office of the President by virtue of Executive Order No. 70. Duterte is chair of the national task force. 

In defending its involvement in speaking out about ABS-CBN, the NTF-ELCAC in a post on Sunday said: "We are fully cognizant about how the terrorist CPP-NPA-NDF exploits the ABS-CBN closure and views it as an opportunity to sow chaos and division." 

It did not explain why it made false statements about the network's franchise issues.

"Let us keep BAYAN, Amnesty International Phil, NUJP, CEGP, AHRW, Karapatan, IBON, ARTISTA, and the International League of People's Struggle of Jose Ma Sison, especially the CPP's underground mass organizations amongst them (Artista at Manunulat ng Sambayanan or ARMAS, Christians for National Liberation, KM, Lumaban, etc) OUT of this issue, lest we allow them to drag us into their trap and swallow the narrative they force down our throats — tyranny," it also said.

ABS-CBN News quotes Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, whose agency is a member of the NTF-ELCAC, as saying Saturday night: "I have no idea as to why NTF-ELCAC would post such a statement that has no relevance to its mandate."

On World Press Freedom Day, many of the groups that signed the statement on Sunday called out limits on and threats to press freedom in the Philippines. 

In 2019, a Social Weather Stations nationwide survey found that 51% of Filipinos agreed that it is "dangerous" to print or broadcast anything critical of the administration, even if it is the truth. 

Many have slammed the National Telecommunications Commission's cease and desist order issued against ABS-CBN Corporation as an attack on the free press, pointing  at the chief executive's documented ire for the network. 

The chief executive had repeatedly threatened the broadcast giant in the past, saying their legislative franchise would not be renewed if it were up to him. The Palace has since distanced itself from the order for ABS-CBN to stop broadcasting, saying legislative franchises are up to Congress.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, head of the administration-dominated House of Repreentatives, on Friday said ABS-CBN being off the air  is due to the “flip-flopping of the NTC and the unconstitutional meddling by the solicitor general in the business of Congress.

RELATED: Duterte warns media critics of retaliation | Press groups record 128 cases of attacks vs media under Duterte admin

In their statement, the media groups called for a probe within the NTF to identify the persons responsible for the posts.  

"We demand that government, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), immediately mount an investigation into who in the NTF-ELCAC were responsible for ordering and creating the slanderous posts and why," the statement said. 

"At a time when our people are battling a deadly pandemic, it is extremely unacceptable that there are those in government who are making media repression, not saving lives, as the priority."

The statement was signed by the following media personalities and organizations:

Individual signatories

  1. Manny Mogato
  2. Inday Espina-Varona
  3. Marites Vitug
  4. Etta Rosales
  5. Antonio J. Montalvan II
  6. Eunice Barbara C. Novio
  7. Tony La Viña
  8. John Nery
  9. Noemi L. Dado
  10. Leslie Manalo
  11. Lisa Garcia
  12. Bart Guingona
  13. Al Alegre
  14. Marian Pastor Roces
  15. Gang Badoy
  16. Ramon Tuazon
  17. Tess Bacalla
  18. Joel Pablo Salud, editor and author
  19. Ellen Tordesillas
  20. Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News
  21. Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News
  22. Sheilla Diamse, ABS-CBN News
  23. Melanie S. Masecampo, ABS-CBN News
  24. Brian Vallesteros, ABS-CBN News
  25. Sarah Herrera, ABS-CBN News
  26. Gigi Gervasio, ABS-CBN News
  27. Reyjohn Mark Sangcap, ABS-CBN News
  28. Descirey Villanueva, ABS-CBN News
  29. Engelbert Apostol, ABS-CBN News
  30. Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News
  31. Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News
  32.  Isay Reyes, ABS-CBN News
  33.  Bea Cupin, Rappler
  34.  Pia Ranada, Rappler
  35.  Jodesz Gavilan, Rappler
  36.  Matthew Reysio-Cruz, Philippine Daily Inquirer
  37.  Herbie Gomez, Mindanao Gold Star Daily
  38.  Cong Corrales, Mindanao Gold Star Daily
  39.  Antonio J Montalvan II
  40.  Lucia Tangi, UP Department of Journalism
  41.  Ivy Lisa Mendoza, UP Department of Journalism
  42.  Janvic Mate, UP Department of Journalism
  43.  Felipe F Salvosa II, UST Journalism faculty
  44.  Christian V Esguerra, UST Journalism faculty
  45.  Anna Cielo T Perez, UST Journalism faculty
  46.  J Alwyn T Alburo, UST Journalism faculty
  47.  Ferdinand J Maglalang, UST Journalism faculty
  48.  Leo O Laparan II, UST Journalism faculty
  49.  Danilo Arao, associate editor, Bulatlat
  50.  Beatrice Puente, editor-in-chief, Philippine Collegian
  51.  Rommel Rutor, president, Samar Island Press Club
  52.  Mate Espina
  53.  Jes Aznar
  54.  Jairo Bolledo, PUP Department of Journalism
  55.  Pat S Roque
  56.  Julie Alipala
  57.  Raffy Cabristante
  58.  Jojo Riñoza
  59.  JB R Deveza
  60.  Tyrone Velez, SunStar Davao
  61.  Frank Cimatu, Cordillera News Agency/Baguio Writers Group
  62.  Ed Lingao
  63.  Barnaby Lo
  64. Stanley Buenafe Gajete


  1.  Rappler
  2.  Philippine Press Institute
  3.  Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
  4.  Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
  5.  Mindanews
  6.  National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
  7.  NUJP-Europe
  8.  NUJP-Albay
  9.  NUJP-Baguio Benguet
  10.  NUJP-Europe
  11. NUJP-National Capital Region
  12. NUJP-Samar
  13. Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation
  14. VERA Files
  15. Photojournalists Center of the Philippines       
  16. Kodao Productions
  17. Bulatlat
  18. Panay Today
  19. Dampig Katarungan
  20. Panaysayon
  21. Altermidya Network
  22. Northern Dispatch
  23. Davao Today
  24. College Editors Guild of the Philippines



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