By Rigoberto Tiglao
Awarding Maria Ressa the Senate Medal of Excellence for her being conferred the Nobel Peace Prize is an insult to us professional Philippine journalists, and to all Filipinos.
The peace prize (and not for journalism) was given by a five-man panel of Norwegians — most likely because of US maneuvering or pressure — who don’t know anything about the Philippines, like most of the other US media outfits that similarly praised her “work.” The Norwegians probably thought, because of Ressa’s claims, that we are a country somewhere in Africa barely out of the Stone Age.
Please read the Nobel committee’s sole justification for giving the award: “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.”
But it is not just President Duterte that the Nobel insulted through that award to an American Filipino; it is all of us.
The award, in effect, portrayed the country as being in the league of countries like Haiti, Sudan or Uganda in the 1970s, with a bloody dictator in power, a cowardly citizenry, widespread killings by the state, and a press doing nothing about it — except for Ressa who is, therefore, being granted the Nobel peace award.
We journalists are insulted as the award in effect claims that we are cowards or paid employees of Duterte, since we are not fighting a dictator, even with just our pens. Only Ressa and her Rappler do. The Norwegians may excuse themselves on the ground that they do not really know the situation in our country and had relied on US media reportage. But you, dear senators, obviously are here, and know the real situation.
You in the Senate should realize that you yourself have been insulted. The Nobel award to Ressa implies that you aren’t fighting a dictator who is waging a war against his own people. If how Nobel depicts the Philippines is true, you should have resigned your posts as senators, since the Senate has served only to conceal the reality of a “dictatorship.”
Among the two dozen professional columnists in the six broadsheets, not a single one has congratulated Ressa’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Instead, four veteran professional columnists — F. Sionil Jose (a National Artist for Literature), Ramon Tulfo (in two columns), Emil Jurado and myself — as well as the National Press Club president Paul Gutierrez were outraged by it.
One columnist who initially congratulated Ressa backpedaled in his next column, saying that he was not “familiar with her work” and hadn’t read the reason why Ressa was given that award.
Only the communist front for media, Altermidya, the stenographers’ association Focap, the Communist Party newspaper Ang Bayan and of course a Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial (but none of its professional columnists) congratulated her.
No legitimate (i.e., non-communist) association of journalists congratulated her. It was mostly the Yellows (now the Pinks) or those who know zilch about the state of media in the country that lauded her “achievement.”
That silence is deafening, considering the stature — even with its controversies — of the Nobel.
The Nobel, however, isn’t an infallible god; it has made many mistakes before or demonstrated its subservience to US interests, as shown in the Nobel Peace Prize conferred on President Obama, just nine months into his office. (The Democratic-controlled Senate didn’t honor Obama at all for winning the Nobel.)
You are Filipinos; do not join the chorus of the five Norwegian panelists and US media outfits who portray the country as a land with no democratic traditions, as one in which only one American Filipino and the gang of obscure journalists she is leading are fighting a bloody dictatorship.
It was Ressa’s Rappler that first reported false news on the extent of casualties in Duterte’s anti-drug war, and then disseminated throughout the world that that campaign resulted in 30,000 “innocent lives lost.” You know in your hearts that that is not true.
Ressa is known in our industry (including the broadcast media) as an incompetent but self-important journalist. Her integrity itself had earlier been in question when she put Rappler at the head of the mob in December 2011 that demonized the late Chief Justice Renato Corona to pave the way for his ouster. Among Ressa and Rappler’s propaganda and boo-boo pieces are the following:
– Its maiden issue in Dec. 22, 2011, written by its editor-at-large Marites Vitug alleged that Corona cheated to get his PhD from the University of Santo Tomas, which that esteemed university vehemently denied point by point. Neither the writer nor Rappler responded to that rebuttal and neither apologized for their hatchet job.
– Ressa’s libel conviction was because of an article that was part of that PR campaign in 2012 maligning Corona, which claimed that the chief justice was using an SUV owned by a “shadowy” businessman who was involved in a murder. Columnist Ramon Tulfo knew the businessmen and vouched for his integrity in his column. Even after a regional trial court found the writer and Ressa guilty and imposed a penalty of at least six months’ imprisonment and P1 million in penalties, Rappler has not to this day taken down the article from its website.
– Rappler in March 2017 distorted a Philippine National Police report that those killed in Duterte’s anti-drug war started just a year before totaled 7,080, when the real figure was just 2,555. Rappler then used its 7,080 figure to conclude by sheer projection that in 2020, the number of killed totaled 30,000, which figure it got US media and human rights groups, even the International Criminal Court prosecutor, to believe.
– Ressa even tried to paint the country as one where the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) operates, and which the government has been powerless to neutralize. She wrote not one but four articles in June 2017 that claimed that the attack on Resorts World in June was by ISIS and that her “sources” even told her the perpetrator’s name was “Abu Kair al Luzonee or Khair from Luzon.” She became the laughingstock of the military beat reporters. The perpetrator was a deranged government employee, debt-ridden because of losing hundreds of thousands in the casino which he thought he could rob in the confusion of the fire he had started on the card tables. Ressa of course never bothered to correct her misreporting, even claiming that the IS had managed to fool media.
As legislators, you should be the first to protest against Ressa for having spat on our Constitution by taking money from American entities — which are known to be undertaking in many countries the propaganda tricks the CIA used to do — which our most basic of laws bans. She has done this with impunity. She first claimed these were in the form of special shares allowed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and when that body said no it wasn’t, she got her foreign investors to claim these (totaling P300 million) were gifts to her and her staff.
This is the charlatan on whom the five senators — Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Leila de Lima, Ralph Recto and Richard Gordon — want to bestow the Senate’s highest honor, believing the word of five Norwegians. Since Rappler was launched in December 2011, Ressa has incontrovertibly proven that she is not a journalist but a propagandist for the Yellows and then the US campaigning against Duterte. No wonder it is these senators who are pushing to give her the Senate’s highest award.
I have no doubt at all that the Senate will be condemned by history if it awards Ressa as I’m sure sooner or later, the US and other foreign real investigative journalists will expose her as one of the most successful journalistic frauds of the century. Not a few American journalists given prestigious awards such as the Pulitzer were later exposed as frauds.
I do hope the five senators still have embers of patriotism in their hearts that transcend politics, enough to put aside their hatred of Duterte, for the sake of the country.