Suppressing freedom of speech during COVID-19 crisis, a Martial Law tactic – De Lima


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urges local and national government officials to stop threatening critics of lackluster government response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

De Lima made the call in light of the reports that government officials in some areas are abusing Section 6(f) of the recently enacted “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” to intimidate citizens who call out incompetence or inaction, threatening them with jail time and exorbitant fines.

 “Knowing the vindictiveness of this regime, this provision can be abused by authorities to suit their political agenda and curtail freedoms of expression and opinion of those who call out government’s inanities and languid response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” she said.

“Virus ang kalaban natin, hindi ang kapwa Pilipino. Takot na ang mga tao, huwag na nating takutin pa. Bukod sa virus, nangangamba rin ang maraming Pilipino sa gutom at lalong paghihirap ng kanilang pamilya,” she added.

Days after some public officials claimed that human rights and the writ of habeas corpus are suspended during a state of emergency, other officials announced that they will go after anyone who voices negative comments on social media on the government’s response to COVID-19.

Reports said that a Cebu-based rapper was made to swear in public to never criticize the government again before sending him home. The Cebu provincial government is mulling over charges to file against the rapper to set an example for other detractors.

In some areas under the “enhanced community quarantine”, De Lima also denounced cruel, inhumane and degrading punishments given to alleged violators of the lockdown, including having them stand or sit for hours under the heat of the sun, or locking them up in dog cages.

“Huwag natin gawing solusyon ang pananakot at dahas. We must treat this crisis more as a public health concern than a peace and order issue,” the former justice secretary said.

“What we need now is full transparency from the government, not a measure to suppress rights and freedom of speech. Sagipin, at huwag gipitin, ang kapwa Pilipino,” she added.

De Lima, the most prominent critic of extrajudicial killings linked to the Duterte administration – who herself has been in jail for more than three years now – is seen by many as an example of the vindictiveness of a regime that cannot handle criticism.

Since her arrest on 24 February 2017, De Lima has been illegally detained based mainly on concocted accounts of drug lords and other shady personalities rounded up by Duterte sycophants and allies.

Despite the limitations caused by her detention, the lady Senator from Bicol has continued commenting on the national situation regarding the ongoing crisis dealt by the deadly novel coronavirus, which paralyzed economies worldwide.

As of March 27, the Philippines have lost 54 persons to COVID-19, with 803 others getting infected by the highly contagious virus. (30)

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