The Philippine Press Institute added its voice Friday to the rising outcry against President Gloria Arroyo's decision to issue Proclamation No. 1017 declaring a state of national emergency.
The PPI, which groups together the country's newspaper publishers, described the emergency proclamation as an assault on civil liberties.
"Our commitment is to the truth. And while we have the room, however being constricted, nothing will bar us from pursuing our duty," the statement issued by PPI chairman and Malaya newspaper publisher Amado P. Macasaet said.
In a televised speech Friday, Arroyo announced the emergency proclamation and warned the media against "publishing rumors and baseless information."
At the same time administration officials said public utilities, including news organizations, face possible takeover by the government if they "aid and abet destabilizers and coup plotters."
The PPI statement reads: "The Supreme Court ruled after the siege of Malacañan on May 21, 2001 that a declaration of a state of national emergency does not add or subtract a whit to and from the powers of the presidency. The declaration, the court said, but constitutes a statement of fact, a description of prevailing conditions that require the commander-in-chief to call out the military to suppress lawless violence.
"So we view with grave concern government attempts to curtail the citizenry’s constitutionally guaranteed rights, including the right of expression and the right to assemble peacefully to seek redress of grievances.
"Permits to rallies marking the 20th anniversary of the EDSA 1 People Power Revolt have been revoked. At this very moment police and military officials are talking about arresting alleged participants and purported supporters of a supposed coup attempt. Palace officials are threatening to take over public utilities, especially media.
"Such naked assaults on civil liberties should be condemned. Twenty years ago, the people threw out a dictatorship. We should not allow – nay, we should resist – a return to those dark days of repression. We are not destabilizers or coup plotters. Our duty in the media is to report as truthfully as we could, guided by our best lights.
"We are threatened with closure, and those who fear the truth might temporarily succeed in stilling our voices. Lies, however, will in time be exposed.
"But enough of the counsels of fear and despair. Our commitment is to the truth. And while we have the room, however being constricted, nothing will bar us from pursuing our duty." (Philippine Press Institute)