MANILA – Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize award is “not a slap” on the government’s face as “no one has ever been censored in the Philippines,” Malacañang said on Monday.
“Certainly not. It is 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 Maria Ressa remains pending in our courts and we leave it to our courts on that fate,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said he said in a virtual Palace press briefing.
Ressa is the first Filipino recipient of the prestigious citation. She was also the first woman to receive this year’s Nobel Prize award.
Roque congratulated Ressa, noting that the award is “a victory for a Filipina.”
“And we’re very happy for that kasi wala namang utak talangka dito sa Malacañang (because no one here in Malacañang has a crab mentality),” he said. “There is no slap [on the government] there because as everyone knows, no one has ever been censored in the Philippines.”
Roque, however, said Ressa still has to clear her name before the Philippine court.
“As in fact, she’s a convicted felon for cyber libel in the Philippines and faces other cases in the Philippines and that’s for the court to decide,” he said.
Roque also said the executive department has nothing to do with the shutdown of media giant ABS-CBN, which was claimed by some as an attack on press freedom in the country.
“You cannot blame Congress for not renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN because that is one of their powers. That is not an order emanating from the executive nor it is a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive,” he said.
He said President Rodrigo Duterte has not ordered the closure of any media entity and ABS-CBN’s application for franchise renewal was denied in the Lower House.
“Wala po tayong pinasara. Kinakailangan po ng prankisa ng ABS-CBN na hindi nila nakuha (We did not close any. ABS-CBN needed a franchise that it didn’t get),”
He said Duterte has not ordered the closure of any media entity.
Press freedom is alive
Roque said press freedom in the Philippines is alive “and the proof is the Nobel prize award given to Maria Ressa.”
He also quoted “a very articulate article” written by National Artist F. Sionil Jose who said the Philippine press “is alive and well”.
“Perhaps we should quote F. Sionil Jose because it does not help if this comes from Malacañang. So this comes from a National Artist: ‘I have criticized Duterte but not on press freedom. The Philippine press is alive and well not because of Maria Ressa. No writer is in jail. There is no censorship. Duterte hasn’t closed a single newspaper or radio station. The closure of ABS-CBN was made by Congress which did not renew the ABS-CBN franchise. Sure, he has influenced Congress but the real issue against ABS-CBN, as I have pointed out, is not press freedom but money, politics, power and its abuse by the Lopezes who own the TV network. Sure, journalists have been killed in the Duterte regime but just as it were in the past administrations; but those killings cannot be laid at Duterte’s door. Usually, they are made by minor politicians or officials attacked by journalists. The real test for journalists was made during the Marcos dictatorship when he imposed censorship, closed all media and jailed journalists.‘,” Roque said.
“Let’s say Malacañang agrees with our national artist,” he added. (PNA)