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September 01, 2015, Tuesday
  • CBCP calls on Catholics not to support same-sex marriage. 11 hours ago |
  • 5 mountaineers drown in Nagsasa Creek in San Jose, Tarlac on Monday afternoon. 11 hours ago |
  • Phivolcs records 5 tremors in areas in Southern Mindanao. 11 hours ago |
  • Petron to implement a P 2.25/kilo rollback on the price of LPG on Tuesday. 11 hours ago |
  • Sandiganbayan issues hold departure orders vs. Fmr. Agusan Del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza & 7 others linked to pork barrel scam. 11 hours ago |
  • Binay’s camp claims De Lima is prioritizing political ambition over the resolution of PDAF and SAF 44 cases. 11 hours ago |
  • Binay’s camp calls on Justice Sec. Leila de Lima to resign. 12 hours ago |
  • DILG Sec. Mar Roxas says gov’t & INC leaders have been in contact with one another since the beginning of the rally at DOJ. 12 hours ago |
  • Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda says INC’s protest peacefully ended through goodwill and convergence of efforts. 12 hours ago |
  • Deputy Pres’l Spokesperson Abigail Valte says talks between gov’t & INC centered on clarification of issues & concerns. 12 hours ago |
  • Palace says there has been no deal made between gov’t and Iglesia ni Cristo. 12 hours ago |
  • Pres. Aquino led the National Heroes’ Day commemoration at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City. 16 hours ago |
  • Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda thanks the INC for ending its 5-day protest rally. 16 hours ago |
  • 9 killed in a collision between a multicab & a truck before dawn Monday in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. 16 hours ago |
  • Pres. Aquino calls on people to unite & set aside personal interests during his message on National Heroes’ Day. 16 hours ago |
  • Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares says the right of expelled INC Minister Isaias Samson Jr. to file a complaint must be respected. 16 hours ago |
  • CIBAC Party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna says DOJ must continue hearing the complaint of expelled INC Minister Isaias Samson Jr. 16 hours ago |
  • Fire kills 6 stay-in workers in a bakery in Taal, Batangas. 16 hours ago |
  • Clean-up of area around EDSA-Shaw Boulevard ongoing following 5 days of INC’s protest. 17 hours ago |
  • Traffic flow now moving along EDSA-Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City. 17 hours ago |
  • Some INC members still trooped to DOJ early Monday morning & left only after INC’s announcement that the protest was over. 17 hours ago |
  • Commuters who were at EDSA-Mandaluyong area about 6 am Monday experienced monstrous traffic jam due to INC rally. 17 hours ago |
  • INC members rejoiced upon hearing their leaders’ announcement at about 8 am Monday that they are ending the protest. 17 hours ago |
  • LRTA says the remaining value stored in the magnetic cards can be transferred to beep cards. 17 hours ago |
  • LRT-2 removes from all its stations the gates for magnetic cards as it paves the way for beep cards. 17 hours ago |
  • Registration for 2016 polls continues in selected malls in the provinces. 17 hours ago |
  • Comelec reminds public to register for 2016 elections before deadline comes on October 31. 17 hours ago |
  • Rains forecast over Central Luzon, Bicol, Isabela, Quirino, Rizal and Quezon. 17 hours ago |
  • Possibility of the LPA near Baler, Aurora developing into a storm remote. 17 hours ago |
  • LPA located at sea 390 kms. east southeast of Baler, Aurora. 17 hours ago |
  • INC evangelist Bienvenido Santiago says INC is concluding its protest as it has reached an understanding with gov’t. 18 hours ago |
  • Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) ends its protest at EDSA-Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City. 18 hours ago |
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Freedom of expression in Asean

By Atty. Harry Roque Jr. | Nov. 07, 2013 at 12:00am

I am in Bangkok, Thailand for training on media defense for lawyers from Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma. This is sponsored by Media Defense Southeast Asia with support from the Konrad Adenaur Stiftung and the American Bar Association Rule of Law Program.

The prognosis is very bleak. All throughout Southeast Asia, despots continue to infringe on freedom of expression, a right guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and customary international law.

Freedom of expression has three aspects: the right to freely hold opinions which is absolute, as in fact, no government can control our thinking process; the right to expression, which may be limited in cases of national emergencies; and right to information. The latter is of course important because without information, people cannot make judgments. Without personal opinions, there will be no public opinion, which in turn, can be utilized to make governments accountable.

The consensus is that all leaders in the region are averse to freedom of expression because all of them suffer from issues of legitimacy. While the degree of repression varies drastically from the use of brutal force in cracking down on bloggers in Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia, Lest Majeste in Thailand, the use of libel and internal security laws in Singapore and Malaysia, and the killing of journalists in the Philippines- the commonality is that leaders in the region are all averse to the truth. The fact is even at this time and age, many of the regimes in the region lack popular mandate. When they do enjoy the mandate, like PNoy, they are allergic to criticism.

Dean Raul Pangalangan delivered a brilliant lecture on the normative values of free speech. He summarizes these into four: the democratic rationale, the counter-majoritarian rational, the marketplace of ideas, and the “safety valve” function.

The democratic function is summarized in the leading case of American Communications vs. Douds: “but we must not forget that in our country are evangelists and zealots of many different political, economic and religious persuasions whose fanatical conviction is that all thought is divinely classified into two kinds — that which is their own and that which is false and dangerous”. In “Whitney vs. California, it was described as: freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth.”

The counter-majoritarian rationale is best summarized in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette: “one’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

The marketplace of ideas was expressed in Abrams vs. US: “To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent ….. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe … that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas-that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year if not every day we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge.”

The “safety valve” function, finally, was expressed in Whitney v. California: “The framers of the Constitution “knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones.”

The Philippines could be the leader in promoting freedom of expression had we not resorted to censorship by murder. It does not help either that our President, despite having a popular mandate, appears antithetic to criticisms. Nonetheless, the good news is that our media lawyers—led by Centerlaw’s Romel Bagares and Media Defense Southeast Asia’s Gilbert Andres—will be at the forefront of availing of international remedies to support the cause of expression in Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia. That’s good news.

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