NTC orders block to access of websites of CPP-NPA, alternative media, progressive groups

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 22) — The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered internet service providers to immediately block access to websites linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and its alleged affiliates following the request of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

Esperon's request, dated June 6 and publicized on Wednesday, sought to prohibit access to websites that are directly linked to the CPP-NPA-NDF. These are the National Democratic Front of the Philippines site, the official publication of NDF; and the website of CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, who is a designated terrorist under Anti-Terrorism Council Resolution No. 17 issued in 2021.

Esperon also lobbied to block online access to several independent media websites such as Bulatlat and progressive groups like Save our Schools Network, UMA Pilipinas, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, and Pamalakaya Pilipinas.

Esperon deemed these media organizations and groups to be "affiliated to and are supporting these terrorists and terrorist organizations." He, however, showed no proof to support his claims.

"They have established pervasive online presence through their website that they continually use to publish propaganda and misinformation campaigns in order to malign the Philippine government, recruit new members, and solicit funds from local and international sources," the NSA wrote to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba.

The full list that Esperon wants blocked are as follows: NDFP, NDF, Jose Maria Sison, Philippine Revolution Web Central, Bulatlat, Hiyaw, PRWC Newsroom, Revolutionary Council of Trade Unions, Compatriots - Revolutionary Organization of Overseas Filipino and their Families, Save our Schools Network, UMA Pilipinas, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Pamalakaya Pilipinas, AMIHAN National Federation of Peasant Women, BAYAN, Arkibong Bayan, International League of People Struggle, Pinoy Weekly, Counter Punch, International Action Center, Monthly Review, People's March, Taga-Ilog News, Partisa-News, and People Resist News.

Several of the listed websites are already inaccessible as of Wednesday afternoon.

Cordoba asked the internet service providers to report the status of the order within five days.

Groups speak up

Bulatlat, an alternative online news publication that has been operating for more than two decades, fought back against the request and accusations made by Esperon.

It condemned what it called the brazen violation of its right to publish, and of the public’s right to free press and free expression.

"This is prior restraint against protected speech," the news site said in a statement. "It is downright unacceptable as it is based on Esperon's mere hearsay. We raise the alarm that such arbitrary action sets a dangerous precedent for independent journalism in the Philippines,"

"We call on our readers, our fellow journalists, and the public in general to stand against attempts to muzzle legitimate sources of information," it also said.

It added that it will consider legal remedies to stop another attempt of the government to repress members of the media.

Bulatlat reported on June 17 that subscribers using Smart/PLDT cannot access its website, prompting the company to seek the help of NTC.

Bulatlat has been a target of cyber attacks since late 2020.

A unit under the Department of Information and Communications Technology confirmed that an internet protocol (IP) address assigned to the Philippine Army has been attacking Bulatlat and another alternative media, Altermidya.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Ramon Zagala denied the cyber-attack allegations, saying this was merely a "surfing activity."

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya denounced the "desperate move" of Esperon to block a website mostly reporting about the plight of Filipino fishers in the West Philippine Sea and how the government is defending its territory.

"We are humbly asking internet service providers not to fall with Esperon’s vicious lies and prevent themselves from being accomplices of the state in suppressing the people’s right to information and freedom of expression," the group said in a statement.