Malacañang has congratulated Maria Ressa three days after her historic Nobel Peace Prize win, but not without discrediting her fight for press freedom.
“It’s a victory for a Filipina and we’re very happy for that kasi wala naman pong utak-talangka dito sa Malacañang," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque during an Oct. 11 Palace briefing.
He added: “But of course there are individuals who feel that Maria Ressa still has to clear her name before our courts, as in fact she is a convicted felon for cyber libel in the Philippines and faces other cases… that is for the courts to decide.”
Ressa, who founded the online news website Rappler, has faced a string of court cases. She told AFP that there are now seven pending court cases against her, which includes an appeal for a cyber libel conviction. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also revoked Rappler's license due to allegations that it is not 100% Filipino-owned. Rappler has appealed to the SEC to review the case.
Roque also cited the sentiments shared by National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose, who said that Ressa does not deserve the award.
“Let's just say Malacañang agrees with our national artist,” said Roque.
Ressa won the award along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace"
When asked if he considered Ressa's award a slap on the face for the government, Roque said: “Certainly not. It’s not a slap on the government. It was made by private individuals in Norway.”
“We respect their decision, but as I said, criminal liability of Ressa remains pending in our courts.”
Roque maintained that the government did not have a hand in issues such as the rejection of ABS-CBN's franchise renewal.
“Excuse me, wala po tayong pinasara. Kinakailangan po ng prangkisa ng ABS-CBN na hindi nila nakuha. Name a media outlet that the President has ordered close then I answer your question.”
A Congress dominated by Duterte’s allies junked ABS-CBN’s petition to renew its franchise in July 2020. Duterte has also blasted ABS-CBN before, saying that he will ensure the network's franchise is blocked.
The Senate has also been tangled up on whether Ressa should be given the Senate Medal of Excellence. Senator Franklin Drilon, who is the minority leader, said that Ressa should automatically be given the award for giving the country its first Nobel award. But Senate Majority Leader said that the rules indicate that the entire Senate should vote and agree to give the distinction.
Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo has congratulated Ressa on Twitter: “This is a recognition and affirmation of your tireless efforts to hold the line for truth and accountability. I applaud your courage. Mabuhay ka!”
Congratulations to @mariaressa for being awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize! This is a recognition and affirmation of your tireless efforts to hold the line for truth and accountability. I applaud your courage. Mabuhay ka! pic.twitter.com/o5RQXoXdG6— Leni Robredo (@lenirobredo) October 8, 2021