The press gets louder when silenced


by Kim Argosino and Sophia Margarette Caagbay

It is a form of resistance indeed – when the truth struggles against the threat of being muted. Enabling this resistance are journalists who rigorously combat deception. However, some were not made fairly. 

Ever since Duterte’s election in 2016, Rappler had begun using its voice to report the insanely many-to-mention and merciless accounts of the war against drugs, violation of human rights, the display of misogyny, and obscene speeches. Rappler also made the public aware of the misinformation and fake news, coupled with edited images and misleading headlines, that were delivered by Duterte’s supporters.

#DefendPressFreedom landslide our social media feeds since the arrests of Rappler CEO, Maria Ressa. It is crucial to note at this point, that our president has always been sensitive about criticisms. Yet despite having a foul mouth, he cannot contain those who also have it against him, one of which he pulsed against the veteran journalist.

Ressa was an investigative reporter, and Manila and Jakarta Bureau Chief for CNN for 20 years. She also headed ABS-CBN’s News division. In 2012, she put up Rappler, an online news platform, together with three other female journalists. She is one of the most highly recognized journalists in the Philippines, receiving numerous awards for journalism and having been named as Time Person of the Year 2018.

But despite her having such a powerful stand in the society, she is not exempted from the government’s attacks and bullying to the strongest critics of the Duterte Administration. Ressa is having mounting cases in just a short span of time. The most recent arrest was, the moment she arrived in the morning at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on March 29, for the alleged violation of Anti-Dummy Law wherein she has posted bail for Php 90, 000.

This is just 43 days from her recent arrest on February 13 for a cyber-libel lawsuit. This relates to an article published in 2012 about Wilfredo Keng, a businessman, and his connections to a top court judge. The law, however, was enacted four months after the article was published. She now faces a total of 11 complaints and cases. But not only did Ressa was subjected to this threat card but also among others.

The president supported the removal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who showed concern for the human rights situation under the drug war; he threatened Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales after she challenged him that he has undeclared wealth; he slut-shamed Senator Leila de Lima after alluding to have seen a sex scandal of her; and, he deported Australian missionary Patricia Fox, who had joined rallies against him.

In 2017, Duterte declared in his State of the Union speech that Rappler violated the constitution because it is ‘fully-owned’ by foreign entities. He later declared publicly “Not only is Rappler’s news fake, but it being a Filipino is also fake”. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decided to revoke Rappler’s license but was remanded back for having no basis as per CNN.

The government also claimed that Rappler evaded taxes worth $3 million in 2015. Typically, investigations for cases like this takes a minimum of a year, but the department already filed charges within five months. This basically means that this lawsuit is void for the law is not retroactive – meaning, cannot be implemented upon activities which occurred before its inception.  Clearly, something politically motivated has been going on.

It is without-question that the president, along with his tentacles, is using his power supposed to serve the people, but instead serves his own by foregoing multiple arrests on Ressa and attacks on his strongest critics.

In the climate of our country at present – where everything’s chaotic and laws that exist to serve the people’s betterment are not utilized as what they are built for, and are instead weaponized to weaken the strong for the blinds to remain blinded; this is the time to think deeply about our future, to organize and to do something worthy of this country.

This is a call, and this is admittedly a difficult agenda, but we are the people. We have done this before and we can do it again. Let the president know the Filipino people is not asleep, and we are not as ignorant as he thought us to be; let him know we are watching, and we are not to be blinded and silenced because we are the Filipinos, the power rests upon us, the sovereign people.

Let Maria Ressa’s back and forth tour at the police stations and bold statements, supported by her unwavering actions, be a reminder that “We will not duck. We will not hide. We will hold the line.”

So, why would you?