EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Mark Lopez on Philippine Press Freedom

Below are a series of questions from Eurasia Future to Filipino political commentator, activist and DJ, Mark Lopez. Recently, Lopez and Jovybev Aquino staged a demonstration in protest of Rappler’s characterisation of Duterte supporters as “tolls” receiving “marching orders”.

1. Mark, I know that like many people defamed either directly or indirectly by Rappler, you have felt frustration at the fact that you were described as some sort of ‘paid Duterte troll’ when of course I know you to be a real, normal Filipino who happens to support President Duterte and his reformist agenda. What motivated you to stage a peaceful protest at Rappler’s headquarters in Manila?

I am outraged, Adam. Just like majority of the Filipinos who felt deceived and manipulated by this scheming of Maria Ressa and her patrons and co-conspirators. The problem with the narrative that they want to impose on the people is that these are steeped and ingrained with lies and distortions, with the end view of getting back in power and wielding their influence. BUT WE ARE NOT GOING TO ALLOW THAT. And that is why Jovybev and I did that. We are seeing real, palpable change in our country, and we feel the bravery, the will and the empathy of our current government, led by this “dictator” who simply wants to give us what we deserve from our government.

2. As the video has been taken down from Facebook, thus destroying your press freedom, could you please describe what you did at Rappler headquarters both before, during and after you made your live video?

Rappler’s office is located in a complex with a mall, so it was not really that difficult to go there and enter the building premises. Jovybev and I met early about 2:30 pm and had coffee in the mall before we proceeded to Rappler’s office at the 3rd floor where we staged our protest. We brought along printed A3 banners which we unfurled once we were able to position ourselves at the doorway entrance of their office. We did not go inside their office so there was no trespassing. I can send you the copy of the video of the actual protest we did which lasted only 10 minutes or so, and we readily agreed to the request of building security for us to leave and go down. They escorted us out of the building but we returned to the mall area where Jovybev had Ramen while absorbing what went on… it was actually surreal. Overall, what can be said about that protest is that we were very respectful and we simply presented ourselves to Rappler to prove to them that we are not paid trolls who received marching orders.

3. It has been suggested by Rappler that you called for violence against people or property, even though I find that hard to believe knowing your record as a peaceful man who wants nothing more than to exercise his right to free speech as provided for by Philippine law. Can you please confirm to this audience that no violence was started or implied during your demonstration?

MY LIVE VIDEO, of which I have a copy, WILL ATTEST TO THAT.

It’s amazing that Rappler has spun our protest as one which is “inciting to violence”, whereas nowhere in our action suggests anything of that sort. As for comments of netizens, that is beyond our control, and its the nature of the beast. Even Duterte himself, when he goes live or on air, there are comments there which are violent or very disrespectful to him but you do not hear the man himself complaining.

All the more this Rappler slant is infuriating.

4. Maria Ressa and her supporters have been using the hashtag “#defendpressfreedom” ever since the authorities in The Philippines acting to charge Ressa and a former associate with the libel of Mr. Wilfredo Keng. As someone who has exercised his own legal right to press freedom, do you feel your ban from Facebook is an affront to the very press freedom that Ressa claims she stands for?

Oh yes! This is really the height of hypocrisy for Maria Ressa to cry suppression of her right as a journalist but she herself cannot tolerate or allow dissent.

Ressa and her ilk in the yellow opposition have this funny way of fighting for free speech and press, yet they block you or report your account once they feel that you are critical or dissenting. Talk about irony.

And isn’t it stupid for all them to be wailing about the death of democracy and the suppression of the freedom of the press, but freely posting these cries all over social media?!!!

5. In the United States, peaceful protests such as the one you conducted are very common. Do you feel that the Philippine authorities have done enough to protect your rights as a free man and citizen or do you feel that moneyed interests have conspired to silence you?

This is really my first time to stage a protest and it is not even one that is fully organized or well planned. It was an organic raw outrage that drove me and Jovy to do something other than merely posting our opinion online.

And I really wanted to test how this will be treated. True enough, we have proven that propagandists and destabilizers like Maria Ressa can dish it but they cannot take it. It’s like they have the monopoly of human rights, and it is theirs alone.

Here’s the thing – this government has an overwhelming massive support of the people. Ressa should re-think her position and what she is doing because at the end of the day, the collective sentiment of the majority who support the government will prevail.

6. Do you believe that Maria Ressa has endangered the right of ordinary Filipinos like yourself to speak freely?

Maybe not endangered but she is the one who is doing the suppression. We can’t help but see the irony in her actions.

And with this, her credibility has already abandoned her. Only the yellows believe her and they are dwindling in numbers as we go on.

7. What is your advice to those who wish to demonstrate peacefully, given that companies like Facebook have “community standards” that seem to differ greatly from that which is allowed according to the law of The Philippines?

I say that if you believe in what you are fighting for, whether you are pro or anti, you must be brave enough to express yourself openly, with no equivocation, pretension, or scheming. It is your authenticity which will give you your credibility.

8. Do you have a direct message for your supports at this time?

To my fellow netizen warriors, especially the ordinary people who endlessly sends messages of support, I wish to convey my utmost appreciation and respect. It is people like you who gives me the courage and conviction to fight those who want to destroy our beloved country.

9. Do you have a direct message to President Duterte at this time?

Thank you Mayor President Duterte for everything that you do. You truly embody “Tapang at Malasakit” and more than anything else, it is your genuine empathy towards the people which made me a Die Hard Duterte Supporter or DDS. There will never be anyone else like you, and I am truly grateful to have witnessed this historic change that you have paved for the Philippines and our people. Mabuhay po kayo! 👊🏼🇵🇭👊🏼

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