By Rigoberto Tiglao
With only a puny opposition less than a year to the 2022 elections, and a Duterte2 administration inarguably on the horizon, the United States has employed what has been its special propaganda weapon, the Nobel Peace Prize, to give American-Filipino Maria Ressa, the chief executive officer (CEO) of a viciously anti-Duterte news website, the stature to demonize the Philippine president, and consequently whoever he endorses as his presidential candidate.
Ressa’s co-awardee is Dmitry Muratov, an editor of the most widely circulated newspaper in Russia very critical of Vladimir Putin, the four-term president of the Russian Federation, one of the two adversaries of the US for world dominance.
The US must be so desperate it didn’t care that the motives of its Nobel move are so obvious: one is aimed against the strongman Putin, the other against the strongman Duterte, whom the Americans are furious at for drawing the country close to their second adversary, China.
A Reuters headline on the story summed it up: “Journalists who took on Putin and Duterte win the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize” although it should have added the phrase “US targets” before “Putin.”
The US has demonstrated several times in the past its power to manipulate the Nobel awards committee into handing the peace prize to whomever it wants, when it needs to do so. The committee consists of just five people nominated by the Norwegian Parliament.
If you’ve ever been in such a panel (as I have), you will realize how easy it would be for a determined party, such as the US, to manipulate the committee: it receives over 300 nominations for all awards per year. How did Russia get into the minds of these Norwegians? In terms of contributing to humanity, Julian Assange, who started Wikileaks, and Edward Snowden, who told the world of the massive US monitoring of private cell phone conversations, didn’t cross their minds. Oh, these two pissed off the US government.
The US has done this Nobel move before.
To boost the profile of the first black US president, an obscure Illinois senator, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 2009 to Barack Obama just nine months into his term — even if he had done absolutely nothing to deserve the purported justification for it, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy.”
To draw attention to the imprisonment of a largely ignored Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, the peace prize was awarded solely to him in 2010.
Ressa was awarded not for any work of journalism but entirely on her portrayal of herself as a crusader for press freedom in the Philippines, which she claims President Rodrigo Duterte has been suppressing. She is a master of the sound bite, spewing such obvious lies that tug at Americans’ hearts such as her claim that for criticizing Duterte, she had received at one point “90 hate messages an hour, 90 rape threats per minute.”
That claim of press suppression in the country is just astonishing as anyone can simply scan the newspapers here and find that many are more vicious in criticizing Duterte than Rappler, yet are not complaining over press suppression.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer and The Philippine Star should be jealous and protest the Ressa award: they have been more vociferously critical of Duterte, and with a much bigger audience than Rappler.
Killings of journalists, according to a detailed case-to-case investigation of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, weren’t related to their work. In the very few cases that were, the people who ordered their murder were drug lords or municipal-level political kingpins they run into trouble with.
According to a Unesco monitoring body, there were 16 journalists here killed during the Duterte administration. Under Aquino 3rd, there were 27.
The Philippines has in fact the freest — and probably most powerful — press in the world. Ressa’s website, initially funded by tycoon Benjamin Bitanga and then by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-linked US entities National Endowment for Democracy and the Omidyar Network, has even become one of the bigger websites since Duterte assumed office in 2016. How in the world could it have been suppressed?
Journalists who have congratulated Ressa for winning the Nobel Prize, as the single one that did so in this newspaper, are so stupid they don’t realize what that award essentially means: Only Ressa has the guts to fight Duterte, the rest of the Philippine press do not have the balls to do so.
It is a desperate move for the US since its nightmare is likely to be a reality: all the polls show that Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.,” son of the strongman of Ferdinand E. Marcos, it moved heaven and earth to depose in 1986, will be the next president, even by a landslide. The Marcos camp should be worried though: the US would have other tricks other than this Nobel one to prevent Bongbong from winning the 2022 elections.
By getting her the Nobel Peace Prize, the US has made Ressa the opposition poster girl, giving her the platform and prestige to hurl dirt against Duterte and Marcos, when nobody practically listens anymore to the likes of Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo or the communist spokesmen. Already, Ressa has started to do the rounds of television interviews as a Nobel laureate as in the respected Freed Zakaria’s CNN program yesterday. It was Zakaria’s first show involving the Philippines.
The announcement by the Nobel Committee to justify Ressa’s award — it doesn’t give any other explanation for its awards — is so blatantly false and a gross defamation of our country that the government should file a diplomatic protest. The sole justification for the award, according to that “announcement,” is that Ressa’s “Rappler has focused critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign. The number of deaths is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population.”
Murderous? Not even Rappler, for god’s sake, has claimed that that campaign “resembles a war waged” against the country’s citizens. The accurate figure, which hasn’t been disproved by actual facts despite several efforts by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and two universities, is around 6,600 since 2016. That’s way fewer than 30,000 to 40,000 killed in state campaigns against illegal drugs in Mexico and Colombia.
The casualties have in fact gone down so much in the past two years that not even the opposition dare use Duterte’s anti-drug war as a major issue in its anti-Duterte campaign, since most Filipinos are grateful that the campaign has vastly reduced the illegal drug problem in the country.
The figure of over “27,000” killed, which the Left and the opposition have succeeded in spreading all over the world, and which the Nobel Committee apparently believed, was one concocted by Rappler. It deliberately misinterpreted the number of total homicides (due to any reason including passion killing, for example) being investigated by police as due to the drug war.
READ: Ressa, Coronel and Gascon concocted false ‘27,000 killed’ number in anti-drug war
The cases filed in court against Ressa were not Duterte’s moves to suppress her or Rappler, but entirely due to her incompetence as an editor and as a company CEO. A businessman filed charges against her and one of her staff for an article accusing him of being a “murderer,” which was a total lie.
The businessman asked her to just delete the article. She refused. It didn’t take long for the court to find her guilty as there was totally no proof at all for the piece’s allegations.
Two American CIA-linked NGOs, the National Endowment for Democracy and Omidyar Network, invested $4.5 million on the website, which was even announced there. But that was a clear violation of the Constitution that bars any foreign money in the media.
Ressa tried to squeeze her way out of the predicament by claiming it was a form of corporate shares the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) allowed. The SEC ruled that it wasn’t. She then claimed the amount was a “gift” to her and Rappler’s editors.
But the country’s laws impose a tax on any gift, which they hadn’t paid at all nor reported in their income tax returns. Ressa obviously thought she was exempted from the country’s income tax laws. The Bureau of Internal Revenue disagreed.
Ressa is a fraud. She has exploited the unpopularity of Duterte in the US to portray herself as a poor victim of the president’s wrath. The American press has been so gullible to believe her because Duterte isn’t liked at all in the US, mainly the result of his distancing of the country from the superpower and drawing it closer to China, as well as the lies of the pro-American Yellow opposition, that he is a ruthless strongman like Putin.
Truth will eventually come out when some enterprising investigative reporter ferrets out the truth behind her Nobel Prize award, which is to demonize Duterte and thereby prevent his perceived successor from winning the 2022 elections. Ressa won’t be the first journalist to fool even experienced US newspapers as was the case of Janet Cooke, who won a Pulitzer Prize in the 1980s for an article purportedly about an 8-year-old heroin addict in The Washington Post, which was later discovered to have been totally fabricated
When that day comes, I hope the Philippines does not get the dubious distinction as the country from which a fraudster managed to fool not just the Nobel Committee but most of the Western media. After all, she’s mostly an American who took Filipino citizenship for convenience when her then employer ABS-CBN said it couldn’t give her a paycheck as she didn’t have the working permit necessary for foreigners employed in the country.