Bulatlat opposes Esperon motion to be dropped from website blocking case

Bulatlat opposes Esperon motion to be dropped from website blocking case
This undated file photo shows National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo, file

MANILA, Philippines — Alternative news website Bulatlat has filed opposition to a motion by former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to be dropped as a respondent in a pending court case questioning a government order to block access to it and to other sites that the government claims is linked to communist rebels.

The National Telecommunications Commission order that left the Bulatlat website inaccessible in the Philippines from June to August last year was based on a request from the National Security Council, which Esperon previously headed.

Esperon has asked the Quezon City court to instead put Eduardo Año, the current NSA, as respondent. Bulatlat, which brought the issue to court and managed to secure a temporary restraining order against the blocking of its site, countered that he should still be a party to the case.

RELATED: Esperon defends blocking sites, calls it protection vs 'leftist misinformation'

"Bulatlat agrees that Año is a party to the case by virtue of being the incumbent NSA but Esperon is being sued in his personal capacity," Bulatlat publisher Alipato Media Center Inc. said in a statement to media.

It said that the NTC block order, which also affected the website of Pinoy Media Center's Pinoy Weekly, was based on a request that Esperon made "with malice and in bad faith."

It said that Esperon, in his letter to the NTC, had "cited three resolutions of the Anti-Terror Council and listed 27 websites, including those not designated by the ATC as terrorists."

Bulatlat and PinoyWeekly are legal entities and have long been publishing online and, in the case of PinoyWeekly, as a newspaper. Also in the list of websites that Esperon wanted blocked were those of Save Our Schools Network, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Pamalakaya Pilipinas, Amihan and BAYAN.

"Esperon's letter was used as a basis for the NTC memorandum dated June 8, 2022. Bulatlat reiterates that neither Esperon nor the NTC has the authority to block any website. Such power is not stated under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Esperon thus acted beyond the scope of his authority or jurisdiction," Bulatlat said.

Esperon last June claimed that the blocking was "a win for the Nation Against Leftist Misinformation, NPA Recruitment and Propaganda" as he claimed the sites violated the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Petitioners against the ATA had argued before the Supreme Court that the law was prone to abuse like arbitrary interpretation by government agencies. 

READ: SC leaves Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 mostly intact

Bulatlat said that it knew that Esperon was no longer NSA when the case was filed in July 2022 and that he did not raise the issue at the time. It said the former national security adviser "should be retained as a party to this case as he is the mastermind behind the censorship of 27 websites."

The NTC and the National Security Council are also respondents in the case that Bulatlat filed.

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