Malacañang insists PH freedom of expression ‘robust’ as TIME lauds Ressa

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 12 2018 12:40 PM | Updated as of Dec 12 2018 06:50 PM

Maria Ressa, an executive of online news platform Rappler, was named as one of TIME Magazine's 2018 Person of the Year. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters/File

MANILA - (UPDATE) Malacañang on Wednesday maintained that freedom of expression in the Philippines remains robust, after TIME Magazine named Rappler chief Maria Ressa as one of the 2018 "Person of the Year."

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said it was TIME’s call to name Ressa as its Person of the Year.

“Certainly we cannot intrude into that. It’s not our turf. Whether we agree or not, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Asked about the state of freedom of expression in the country, Panelo said, “Obviously, since there are still critics attacking the administration, the freedom of expression is a robust one.”

“Nobody has been prosecuted for criticizing the administration. Those who have been charged are in connection not with freedom of expression but for commission of crimes,” he added.

Speaking to ANC on Wednesday, Ressa said Malacañang's statements are "untrue at best."

"We've seen connections with the administration and the hate incited by people who are part or working with the administration," she said.

"It is now a tactic much like disinformation campaigns around the world," she added.

Earlier this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked Rappler Inc’s license to operate for allegedly violating the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership of mass media.

On Tuesday, Ressa posted a P204,000 bail at the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) for three cases of failure to file tax returns and one case of tax evasion filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Ressa also maintained anew that charges against her and Rappler are "politically motivated."

"I'm not an enemy of the government. I'm just a journalist doing my job. Answer the questions, be transparent, be accountable then we'll move and be able to work together," she said.

Aside from Ressa, the TIME also picked slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, jailed Burmese journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and the staff of the Capital Gazette in Maryland, which lost 5 of its staff in an attack last June. They were collectively called as the “Guardians” of the truth.

The administration has been criticized for using the law against its critics, among them Senator Leila de Lima, who is currently detained on what she labeled as trumped up charges, and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who is also facing a slew of charges ranging from libel to coup d’etat.

Ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was removed from her post for failing to submit a complete set of her statements of asset, liabilities, and net worth, said on Tuesday that under President Duterte, the law seems to have become an “instrument of injustice.”