Joint statement on Marawi, Martial Law and Internet Freedom

Released:

June 15, 2017

Joint statement on Marawi, martial law and internet freedom
By CPU, TXTPOWER and AGHAM
June 15, 2017

After Camp Aguinaldo spokesman Colonel Edward Arevalo warned that the military would exercise an alleged “right to censure”, DICT Head Rodolfo Salalima has announced arrests for “cyber sedition”.

It must be clear by now: Whether you’re in Marawi, Mindanao or Manila, we’re all unsafe from martial law’s effects on our basic rights. And nowhere is this more obvious than the internet and the basic rights we enjoy online and offline.

These threats by the military and DICT don’t strike fear at the heart of terrorists. They dampen civic engagement and attempt to negate the public’s right and duty to see to it that martial law is required, that martial law is actually aimed at the terrorists, and that martial law is not being implemented against the public.

We warn the military and the DICT not to overstep their bounds. Censorship, whether prior restraint or subsequent punishment, does not help combat terrorists. We urge the military to revisit their claim of a “right to censure”. It is an invention, with no legal provenance or constitutional basis.

We also warn against network shutdowns under martial law. Network shutdowns in Mindanao are unacceptable. It would isolate and disconnect Mindanao from the rest of the country and the world. Mindanaoans should not be silenced. It would be bad for business, commerce, education, governance and other aspects of our daily lives.

The dress rehearsals for turning off our internet have started many years back. In the name of counter-terrorism, the police, the military and the government have taken down mobile and internet access in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and other parts of the country. 

All the shutdowns have been applied for and granted in an questionable manner, without hearing and without assessment. It is not farfetched that the government would use this if the “online noise” of widespread criticism becomes intolerable to them. 

If there’s any event and place where the public would understand a network shutdown, it is this incident and Marawi City from the very start. Based on "practice", shutting down all communications there would deprive the terrorists any means to communicate among themselves and the outside world. It is now a virtual ghost town, with most of its 200,000 inhabitants already transformed into evacuees.

But this appears to be impossible. Because it would affect the military operations, coordination between the Commander-in-Chief in Manila and the ground forces in Marawi and media reportage that has been so kind to the military. 

We urge citizens and organizations to be vigilant and jealous of the rights we enjoy, offline or online, against any arrogant overreach by the military and government. They have a track record of abuse, and have also made threats of doing under martial law.

Let’s keep the Philippines' and the internet free. 

Ricardo Bahague 
National Coordinator
Computer Professionals Union

Tonyo Cruz
President
TXTPower

Dr. Giovanni Tapang
Chair
Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham)