UE campus journalist threatened with libel, forced to make a public apology–report



A campus journalist was allegedly forced to make a public apology for calling out his former teachers’ mocking of his anti-government posts, a report from ABS-CBN News said.

Joshua Molo, editor in chief of student publication UE Dawn, in a report on ABS-CBN News,  said he felt “suppressed” by the very teachers who once taught him how to write.

“I’m just doing my job as a journalist to render my opinion to the people and also, as a citizen, to somehow inform the people of what is happening right now. I feel like I was suppressed by these people,” said Molo.

Molo, on Sunday, appeared on a cellphone video posted on Facebook and Twitter apologizing to several of his high school and elementary teachers in Nueva Ecija after a series of exchanges on social media.

“Bilang estudyante at mamamayan, naniniwala ako na ang pag-unlad ay matatamo sa maraming paraan. Maaaring ang paniniwala ng isa ay naiiba ngunit ‘di ibig sabihin nito ay mali. Inaamin ko po na ako ay nagkamali, at hindi na muling mauulit ang pangyayari  (As a student and citizen, I believe that progress can be achieved through many ways, that the view of one may be different but does not necessarily mean it’s wrong. I admit I made a mistake and that will not happen again.),” said Molo on the video, reading from his cellphone.

There were several social media posts of Molo calling out reactions of former teachers to his post criticizing government handling of #COVID19  crisis.

Molo said he was forced to shoot the video apology after he was summoned to their barangay hall. One of his teachers threatened to file a cyber libel case against him.

“I was asked either itutuloy nila ‘yung kaso or I will do a public apology. Since my family po cannot afford to have a lawyer and to counter the case, we don’t have the resources for that, I opted to do a public apology,” he said.

Molo, in the  ABS-CBN News report, said he was forced to apologize following threat from an ex-teacher.

He clarified the barangay officials in his hometown in Nueva Ecija (his mother is a barangay tanod) did not pressure him to read apology. He posted a video online, which went viral.

Molo said he was again called to the barangay after his video went viral. They agreed to change privacy settings of his video.

Molo said he apologized because he didn’t have the means to face possible cyber libel case. He also thanked all those who offered legal support.

“My mother pleaded na sana huwag na lang ipa-video, i-post na lang, kasi syempre, as a mother, parang kahihiyan na makita ‘yung anak niya na ganun ang ginagawa, wala namang ginagawang kasalanan. Pero the same threat, ‘yung binato, so wala akong nagawa kundi gawin ang video. And then, tapos, hindi ako makakauwi until hindi ko ginagawa ‘yung video,” he explained.

Molo said he was also told that one of his teachers had in fact visited the Philippine National Police cybercrime division in their town.

“Chineck daw ng PNP Facebook ko and I was tagged as a leftist and hayaan na lang daw akong magpost para madampot na lang daw ako o hayaan na lang daw ako maging aktibista para ipadampot na lang ako soon. Parang ganun ‘yung naging statement and it was reiterated to me noong former teacher ko na nagsampa ng reklamo,” he said.

The controversy started with Molo’s comments on Facebook criticizing the Philippine government’s handling of the coronavirus disease or COVID-19 crisis.

Molo’s  former teachers at Cabiao National High School advised him to just listen to them and acknowledge the efforts of the government.

Molo thought otherwise. In a Facebook and Instagram story posted on April 2, he asked his former teachers to check their privilege.

“…[T]hey are just privileged enough not to see what other people are experiencing. Sabagay puno naman ‘yung refs nila at may sweldo sila (Afterall, their refs are full and they receive salaries) despite the pandemic,” he wrote.

“Yung pamilya ko wala. (My family has none.) I spent more than half of my savings already, so don’t tell us na masyado pa kaming bata (that we’re too young). Baka masyado lang kayong okay na sa buhay niyo, kasi may nakakain kayo everyday (You might be living comfortably because you have something to eat every day,” he continued.

Molo shared he comes from a family of low-income earners (his mother is a barangay tanod) and his studies at the University of the East in Manila are financed by a scholarship and allowances from a foundation and the publication which he heads.

The exchange did not end there. The following day, Molo said some of his former teachers commented on one of his posts by making fun of what he said the previous day.

One of the teachers said “puno kasi ref mo” (your ref is full) while another one said “may sweldo kase kayo at hindi nagugutom mga pamilya niyo” (you have a salary and your family does not go hungry). A third one remarked, “wala kasi tayong savings” (we don’t have savings), in an apparent reference to his post the previous day.

In another Facebook and Instagram  posts, Molo called out what he said was “patama” or dig against him.

“Sweldo (salary), savings, ref. Of all I have stated last time, this is what they had picked up. What’s up reading comprehension?” he said, while showing the screenshot of his teachers’ online comments.

He went on to question what exactly his journalism teachers are actually teaching.

“I am so disappointed that my former Campus Journalism teachers are making fun of my recent statements just because they are obviously slapped by it. Maybe the ‘Campus Journalism’ they are upholding only exists for contests, for bragging rights,” he said.

He added: “Thankfully, we (with some of my Kabyawan colleagues) diverted from the path our so-called ‘advisers’ are taking now.”

Molo was EIC for his high school publication Kabyawan for 4 years.

He insisted, there was nothing wrong with his posts.

“I did nothing wrong with what I posted. I called them out because they did something wrong. They bullied me and they have been bullying other people in the past. And I think it’s time for them to be called out.”

The incident drew sharp condemnation from various media and human rights organizations.

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines called it a “blatant suppression” of democratic rights.

College Editors Guild of PH condemns “blatant suppression” of democratic rights after the EIC of UE Dawn was forced to apologize over a Facebook post criticizing PRRD’s handling of #COVID19 . His ex-teachers allegedly accused him of cyber libel, complained to brgy.

“Instead of filing nonsensical criminal charges, the government should work on improving a coordinated and sustained public information campaign and immediately deliver economic assistance and services to everyone,” CEGP National President Daryl Angelo Baybado said in a statement Sunday.

College Editors Guild of PH condemned the  “blatant suppression” of democratic rights after the EIC of UE Dawn was forced to apologize over a Facebook post criticizing PRRD’s handling of #COVID19. His ex-teachers allegedly accused him of cyber libel, complained to brgy.

UE Dawn defended Molo: “Preventing someone from expressing his/her opinion on matters such as grievances against the govt is an act of oppression. We, the members of the UE Dawn, strongly believe that to criticize the govt is a right of every Filipino.”

Molo’s publication, UE Dawn, also came to his defense.

“Preventing someone from expressing his or her opinion on matters such as grievances against the government is an act of oppression. We, the members of the UE Dawn, strongly believe that to criticize the government is a right of every Filipino,” UE Dawn said in their statement.

Human rights group Karapatan called it a “curtailment of the right to free expression.”

“Karapatan would like to remind authorities that the right to free speech is protected by the Philippine Constitution and international human rights instruments. Anyone who wishes to express dismay over government’s actions should never be threatened and penalized,” the group said.

The video apology went viral on the same day it was posted that one of his teachers, through the barangay, eventually asked Molo to change the privacy settings of his post, as they had been supposedly receiving negative messages.

On Sunday night, Molo also met with two of his former teachers who clarified they had nothing to do with the threat of cyber libel complaint.

Reflecting on his contentious relationship with some of his former teachers, Molo said he will continue to speak up.

“I thought those people are rooting for me to become a lawyer someday, but they can’t even acknowledge my arguments,” he said in one post.

“Now that I have learned to speak up in a better way, there’s no turning back. Shoo away cry babies,” he added./Stacy Ang

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