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Student-journo claims he was red-tagged, threatened with arrest for criticizing gov't

The campus journalist who was reportedly forced to apologize by a teacher he had "offended" has spoken out, giving an account of the bullying, threat of arrest, and redtagging he allegedly experienced after he criticized the government on his own Facebook page.

Joshua Molo, the 20-year-old editor-in-chief of the UE Dawn, posted a statement Monday saying four of his former teachers "did not consent to the public apology" and tried to stop another former teacher from pursuing a complaint against him.

He said it was statements from this one teacher, "coupled by the threats and redtagging from the PNP, including an arrest if ever I will not apologize, that put me in a hostile situation to issue said public apology."

The UE Dawn, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, and rights watchdog Karapatan earlier came to Molo's defense over reports that he was threatened with a cyber libel case for allegedly calling out his former teachers who made fun of his posts that were critical of the administration.

In his new post, Molo recounted that he was "invited" by barangay officials in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija to a mediation meeting over a blotter-complaint filed by one of his former teachers. He said he was informed in the meeting held Sunday that there was enough evidence to pursue a cyber libel case against him.

The teacher, he said, used as evidence the screenshots of his Instagram stories, in which he called out the "privilege" of his former teachers who had "bullied" him over his Facebook post regarding the Duterte administration's actions on the COVID-19 crisis.

"The subject of the said Instagram story is aimed at calling out the general public on the privileged some enjoy while poor people are being neglected," Molo said in his post, which he said his lawyer helped him with.

He claimed that the teacher was "offended" by his posts and went to the Cabiao police's cyber crime division and "asked the police officers to scan my social media accounts."

He claimed that the teacher said the police made the following remarks, non-verbatim: "Hayaan mong magpost nang magpost yung bata para damputin na lang." and "Against nga iyan sa gobyerno, hayaan mong maging aktibista para mapadampot na lang." He said these gave rise to redtagging.

At the mediation meeting, Molo said "they agreed to the suggestion" that he post a public apology video. He said he was also given an option to sign a blotter report stating he will no longer post "any anti-government sentiment" and that he will publicly apologize, or face a cyber libel case, arrest, detention, and the forfeiture of his scholarship.

"However, I insisted to remove the oppressive provision to criticize the government before I signed the same," he said.

After weighing his "limited options," he said he "opted to waive my right to free speech and issued a public apology thereafter."

Molo thanked those who supported him amid the "attack."

"Rest assured, that this will not prevent us from exercising our cherished freedom and democracy. We will continue to #DefendPressFreedom," he said. — DVM, GMA News