Press Freedom Challenges Faced by Philippines

In 2023, the Marcos Jr regime in the Philippines continued to maintain a sense of calm amid the suffering and repression of the poor. Transportation issues, such as flight delays and power outages, affected around 56,000 passengers in January and December, with nearly 100,000 drivers and operators in Metro Manila potentially losing their jobs.

However, the rich and powerful remained unaffected, with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr visiting countries like China, the United States, and Japan. Critics argue that these trips were mere gestures and that Marcos should stay in the Philippines to address serious problems like high prices and low wages.

Marcos Jr’s travel budget increased from 671 million pesos to 1.15 billion pesos in 2024, despite overspending his 2022 foreign travel budget. His billion-peso travel expenses are part of the government’s 5.768 trillion pesos national budget. However, Congress has not been kind to other politicians, such as Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte, who had to drop her request for confidential funds amounting to 650 million pesos due to public outcry and her branding of opponents as ‘enemies of the state’.

Congress has reallocated confidential funds to the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education for other purposes, including improving school facilities. Rodrigo Duterte criticised the House of Representatives for removing his daughter’s funds from his program on the Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), accusing House Speaker Martin Romualdez of conspiring with communists and threatening to kill oppositionist Representative France Castro for allegedly having communist links.

This led to Castro filing a criminal complaint against him. SMNI hosts Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz engaged in red-tagging and airing incorrect information to discredit their perceived enemies, including journalists and media groups. Celiz and Badoy were cited for contempt and detained for refusing to reveal the source of his false information.

The House of Representatives is now moving to revoke SMNI’s broadcast franchise for spreading disinformation and other violations, potentially leading to its possible shutdown. The National Telecommunications Commission issued a 30-day suspension against SMNI for alleged franchise violations, which SMNI later appealed.

Journalists and media watchdogs have criticized the Socialist Media Nationalist Party (SMNI) for using press freedom to justify unethical journalism practices. Badoy and Celiz have red-tagged those who oppose SMNI, posing a threat to the safety of those accused of being communists. Media attacks have increased in frequency, with at least three journalists killed since Marcos Jr. took office.

From July 2022 to November 2023, there were 87 extra-judicial killings, 316 illegal arrests, 12 enforced disappearances, and 22,391 bombings. In 2023, village and youth council elections and rallies were held to express concerns about human rights violations, historical denialism, education budget cuts, agrarian reform, wage increases, national sovereignty, and jeepney modernization. As these difficulties persist, a culture of resistance is needed to prevent mistreatment of Filipino citizens.

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