A student journalist from the University of the East was allegedly forced to make a public apology yesterday after offending several of his former high school and elementary teachers for criticizing the Duterte administration.
Joshua Molo, the editor of campus magazine Dawn, was summoned by village officials in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija at around 12 noon yesterday after his former teachers filed a complaint against him, reports Rappler.
Molo’s post could no longer be found on his newsfeed, but he called out the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The teachers criticized Molo, who told him that he should be supporting President Rodrigo Duterte instead. The teachers then became offended after Molo posted screenshots of their comments, where he called them out for their privilege. In one post he told his former teachers, “Maybe you’re so comfortable in your lives because you can eat every day.”
During the meeting mediated by village officials, one of his teachers threatened to sue him for cyber libel unless he apologizes on social media. Molo told ABS-CBN News, “Since my family cannot afford to have a lawyer to counter the case, we don’t have the resources for that, I opted to do a public apology.”
He was also told during the meeting that one of his teachers had already visited their town’s Philippine National Police (PNP) cybercrime division and that the police allegedly checked his Facebook account and had labeled him a leftist.
“I was tagged as a leftist and they said I should be allowed to post again or resume being an activist so that I could be arrested [by the police] soon. That was supposedly the statement and it was reiterated to me by my former teacher who filed the complaint,” Molo said.
In the video apology uploaded on his Instagram page, Molo apologized to all of his teachers whom he offended, and added in Filipino, “As a student and as a citizen, I believe that progress could be achieved in many ways. Perhaps the belief of one may be different but it does not mean that it is wrong. I admit that I was mistaken and that this will not happen again.”
The members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines denounced what happened to Molo in a statement released last night, and added that they will continue to fight Duterte “because history has proven, tyrants can never silence the truth and suppress our democratic rights.”
“In times of state-sponsored attacks, campus journalists will continue to search for truth under the heaps of lies spread by those in power. Our duty remains to expose the ills of society and to study and advocate solutions that will address the roots of today’s deep-seated crisis,” the members added. “Rather than on outspoken journalists like Joshua Molo, pressure should be put on Duterte and his cohorts to hold them accountable for not heeding the demands of the Filipino people.”
Meanwhile, PNP spokesman Brigadier General Bernard Banac said that they are leaving it to the local government to investigate the case, reports GMA News.
“Criticism is part of freedom of expression and a healthy democracy,” Banac said. “But in critical times of public health emergency and state of calamity, adverse opinions that only serve to muddle our focus and distract our attention should rather be ignored or deferred for better days.”