THIS year’s commemoration of EDSA People Power will be different from past celebrations.
The tone will probably be less celebratory and grand. President Benigno S. Aquino III prefers to spend the 28th anniversary of EDSA 1 with the victims of calamities in the Visayas and has requested that the celebrations be held in Cebu, instead of Manila.
According to Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., Cebu was chosen as the venue this year since “it was in Cebu where Mrs. Corazon Aquino stayed when the military defected from President Marcos on Feb. 22, 1986.”
The president also  wanted to revisit the calamity-stricken areas before his state visit to Malaysia on Feb. 27 and 28.
“The President said it was important to rally people in areas affected by calamities in order to rekindle the spirit of EDSA People Power in rebuilding better communities. Hence the original plan to hold the event in Malacañang was shelved,” he said.
Aside from being in solidarity with the plight of the typhoon victims, it’s also a move to prevent additional traffic congestion due to the ongoing construction of the Skyway Stage 3 extension project — an elevated highway which will connect the South Luzon and North Luzon expressways.
Malacañang has been flooded with appeals from motorists and commuters, asking the Philippine government  to find effective ways to address the “looming monstrous traffic jams.”
But what probably would make the EDSA 1 celebration most unconventional would be the scheduled “Black Tuesday” online and offline protests on February 25.
In a roundtable discussion with stakeholders on February 21, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Chairman Rowena Paraan said that various activities are being planned and organized to protest against the Supreme Court’s decision of upholding the online libel provision in the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act.
Various media organizations, including Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), have agreed to devise a pooled editorial on online libel and to revive the Black Tuesday campaign, said Paraan, with protest actions to be done both in cyberspace and in real time.
Rappler.com’s Chay F. Hofileña cites some possible hurdles in enforcing online libel:
“The online medium is borderless, hard to control and police. Law enforcement in such an environment poses steep challenges not only to resources, but to personnel and equipment as well. How long before surveillance equipment, for example, used on possible violators become outdated and useless?
As Santiago herself pointed out, ‘There will be extreme difficulty in law enforcement and if you cannot enforce a law, you better strike it off the records because it promotes contempt for the law.’
Besides, in a democratic society’s hierarchy of values, erroneous statements made online might be a small price to pay for the continued enjoyment of the freedom of expression. To paraphrase a quote attributed to either French writer Voltaire or his biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall, libertarians on social media today would likely say, ‘I may not like what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ “ 
In Congress, lawmakers are making their own moves to decriminalize libel.
Sen. Miriam Santiago has called the SC ruling on online libel “erroneous because the provision is too vague and too broad” and that it poses “a very significant constraint” on our basic rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
The feisty senator is asking netizens to file a motion for reconsideration and to support her bill, the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom (MCPIF) — a measure that was crowdsourced by netizens from various sectors and professions and submitted to her office “to establish a framework for information and communication technology (ICT) in the Philippines,” as reported by Rappler.com.
Meanwhile, Sen. Teofisto Guingona has filed Senate Bill No. 2128, which seeks to decriminalize libel “’by means of writing or similar means’ by repealing Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code,” according to Philstar.com.
“This bill proposes to remove imprisonment as a penalty for libel because the threat of jail time sends a sufficient chilling effect on the freedom of expression,” Guingona said.
On the other hand, Senate Majority Leader Alan Cayetano and Sen. Chiz Escudero both believe that the online libel provision should be repealed.
Cayetano thinks that the provision curtails netizens’ right to freedom of speech, while Escudero believes that the mere existence of libel in the country’s laws affects our ranking in the World Press Freedom Index.
Some would probably see the timing of the Black Tuesday protest as inappropriate and could depreciate the value of such a historic moment in Philippine history.
But we have to remember that EDSA 1 was essentially a fight for freedom. Perhaps, Black Tuesday will become the new EDSA moment of our time — a fight for freedom, not just on the streets but on the virtual highway as well.
As Pres. George Washington once said: “ If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
(AJPress)

The Filipino-American Community Newspaper. Your News. Your Community. Your Journal. Since 1991.

Copyright © 1991-2022 Asian Journal Media Group. All Rights Reserved.