By Jeffrey Damicog
Those who are being forced to make a public apology or appear before the barangay for criticisms they posted online should first consult a lawyer.
Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) chairman and human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno gave this advise after University of the East (UE) Dawn editor-in-chief Joshua Molo, 20, was forced to make a public apology for criticisms against the Duterte administration he posted online after being brought to a barangay hall in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija and threatened with charges by his former teachers.
“Hindi labag sa batas ang constructive criticism. Dahil sa positibong pagpuna, naaitatama natin ang mga mali sa ating lipunan (Constructive criticisms are not illegal. Because of positive criticisms, we can right wrongs in society,” read Diokno’s post in his social media accounts on Tuesday, April 7.
“Pero kahit pa ganoon, ngayong may krisis e maraming pinag-iinitan dahil sa opinyon nila (Regardless, many people have become targets for their criticisms during these times when there is a crisis),” he said.
Diokno offered some advise to those who have been posting criticisms online over the government’s handling of the current health emergency caused by the deadly 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“Kung pinipilat magbigay ng public apology o pumunta sa Barangay Hall dahil sa post ninyo, komunsulta agad sa abogado (If you are being forced to make a public apology or go to the barangay hall because of your posts, immediately consult a lawyer,” Diokno advised.
He said there are groups who are offering free legal assistance and includes the Initiative for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternatives Legal Services (IDEALS) and the Ateneo Human Rights Center.
Diokno also advised the public not to include in their posts “pagmumura, panlalait, at mga personal na tirada (curses, insults, and personal attacks).”
“Mag-ignore pag nakatanggap ka nito. Hindi worth it kausap ang mga bastos na ito (Ignore persons who also did these to you. They are not worth your time),” he advised.
“Pag maayos naman ang kausap nyo, makipag-debate pero wag makipag-away. Sabihin na lang na ginagalang nyo ang opinyon nila, at sana irespeto din nila yung inyo. Pag masyado nang mainit and debate, mag-break muna. Antayin mo bumaba ang galit mo bago mag-reply (If the person is right, engage him in a debate but don’t fight. You should say that you respect their opinion and they should also respect yours. Take a break if the debate becomes heated. Wait for your anger to subside before making a reply),” he told the public.
Diokno also warned the public against making posts that call for taking down the government through the use of force or violence.
“Ito ay maaring maging sanhi ng pagsampa ng kasong inciting to sedition o inciting to rebellion,” he explained.