Alternative news website Bulatlat said Wednesday it was "surprised and enraged" over the National Telecommunications Commission's order to internet service providers to block its website along with over 20 other left-leaning online pages.
The NTC, in a memorandum dated June 8 and shared by Bulatlat, asked internet service providers to block several websites linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines, alternative news outlets, and progressive groups based on the request of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
"You are hereby directed to effect the immediate blocking of the reported websites found to be affiliated to and are supporting terrorists and terrorist organizations," the NTC said in its memorandum addressed to internet service providers.
Websites listed include those of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison, Bayan, and Save Our Schools Network among others.
Esperon told the NTC that "recruitment, funding, and propaganda activities" of alleged “Communist Terrorist organizations” should be stopped.
“They have established pervasive online presence through their websites that they continually use to publish propaganda and misinformation campaigns in order to malign the Philippine government, recruit new members, and to solicit funds from local and international sources," Esperon said in his letter dated June 6.
Bulatlat said it asked the NTC and the Department of Information and Communications Technology on June 20 for an investigation on the matter but has yet to receive a response as of June 22.
It added that it has received reports of readers having trouble accessing its website since June 17.
"This is prior restraint against protected speech. It is downright unacceptable as it is based on Esperon's mere hearsay. We raise the alarm that such arbitrary action sets a dangerous precedent for independent journalism in the Philippines," Bulatlat said in a statement on its Facebook page.
"No matter who is in power, we have remained fearless in our truth-telling. We will continue our work while we also consider all legal remedies available to question, and stop yet another state-sponsored repression," it added.
Malacañang said affected parties can avail of legal remedies.
"Legal remedies are available to any party, including online media outfit Bulatlat, affected by this action," Communications Sec. Martin Andanar said.