Amid what many see as media persecution under the Duterte administration, a veteran journalist on Thursday used an International Women's Day event to rally journalists to continue doing their duties.
"We should never let go of the ability to hold the line and to be able to push back and say that we are not taking this shit," broadcast journalist Cheche Lazaro said during a forum about the role of women in Philippine media.
Lazaro also said the chilling effect of martial law did not stop when the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family left the country in February 1986.
"Censorship did not end when the Marcoses left. It continued. We have stories about them. History seems to repeat itself," she said.
"We have incidence that happened with different circumstances that seem to recur and repeat themselves at this present time," Lazaro added.
Critics of the administration have accused President Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters of unleashing vicious attacks on news outlets that are critical of his governance, among them online news site Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Jo-ann Maglipon, a former reporter who was detained during martial law, said she sees similarities between the dark days of the Marcos regime and the present administration.
Maglipon saidMarcos and Duterte "sell the same idea" of being a strongman.
"One strongman who alone will keep the nation safe. Then as now, the strongman is placed as macho might — arrest, kills, searches and sweeps — escalates to build a better order. But note, alongside this dreadful scenes, he repeatedly drowns in the message that he leads society only of undesirables," Maglipon said.
Maglipon also stressed that every strongman seems to have an eagerness to take over the press.
"Every strongman believes he must own it," she said. "If he can't own it then control it. If not that, then destroy it."
Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), said she believes women journalists are the "lucky ones."
"As we celebrate the International Women's Day, we are still the lucky ones. Our stories as women are given prominence for the simple reason of the obvious visibility of the media and the central role of that media still plays," De Jesus said.
De Jesus underscored the vital role of women journalists who have remained critical of a corrupt government despite the harassment they have been receiving from the public, especially from supporters and allies of local officials.
"Women journalists of today have once again played a prominent role in the resistance and push back against corrupt government pressures, they are harassed, threatened with all kind of pressure including the closure of media organization," she said. —KBK, GMA News