Philippines: Statement of the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation – Joint Statement on the Harassment of Maria Ressa (15.02.2019)
I write what I like.
In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has been a strongman whose fought the good fight for the people against government corruption, also used martial law to beat Islamist’s in Marawi on the island of Mindanao. Now, he has also broken the dialogue with the communists rebels, of the militia of the New People’s Army. Therefore, as he has used the army and police to battle drug-cartels and militias. You would expect a fellow President to manage a few journalists.
President Duterte has now started a spat and unnecessary, as the Christopher Lawrence “Bong” has stated today to the media after 48 hours of foolishness from themselves. This is crisis made out of stupidity made by the Malacañang. Duterte and Bong just acting dumb by kicking out a reporter from Rappler. Pia Randa yesterday on the 20th February and then barring her from entering today.
They have stated this to the media:
“Let us be clear: The case of Rappler is not an attack on press freedom. Members of the media, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer, continue to be hard-hitting yet they can cover the activities of the President. Ms. Ranada’s accreditation, which would give her access to Palace activities, lies on Rappler’s accreditation. If Rappler wants to have direct coverage of certain events inside and outside Malacañang, it may apply for Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) accreditation. Two things could have avoided Rappler’s present predicament: One, get a temporary restraining order. Two, be a Filipino corporation. Unfortunately, Rappler failed to obtain a TRO and failed to show that it is a Filipino entity” (Presidential Communications Operations Office – ‘From the Presidential Spokesperson – On Rappler’ 21.02.2018).
By the standard of the ownership of Rappler, it is owned by Dolphin Fire Group (31%), Maria Resa (23%), Hatchd Group (17% ), Benjamin So (17%), Public Trust and Media Group (5%) and 4 minority owners with about 5%. So the ownership of Rappler and Rappler Holding Company is based in the Philippines, even if they have gotten funding from abroad Omidyar Network and North Base Media. Both foreign, but the ownership is still Philippines based. Therefore, the attacks on this is a bit strange.
That is just the quick defense of Rappler and their ownership, which should be easily accessed to the President and his associates. Since they can get all registers and all files on the company. Since the Rappler Holding Corporation has to pay taxes and levies like any other. I would expect the Spokesperson to the President knowing this. Even I could find this information without very little research, since this is public, as a public company and with open access to the domain.
However, this isn’t just about press freedom, this is about the open scar of weakness. That the President doesn’t like one story about Navy Frigate Deal. Maybe, the President should be transparent about the trade and deal, also show the process of the agreement with set supplier of the boat. Not just spray venom and show fury over Rappler writing a story. Show the truth, drop the arrangement, mark the classified details, which only the military can know and show the paper-trail if the story is false. That would be mature and prove transparency in his actions. However, he takes away press credentials and beats the messenger, instead of showing the true face of Navy Frigate deal.
I hate to say it, but Duterte looks weak and foolish with this. He could have shown his true character and riding the storm. Instead he seems hot-headed and unwise. Duterte been swift and wise in cracking down on terrorists and communist rebels. But doing this to a report from Rappler is childish and petty. He is supposed to be better and have better reasoning behind it. Clearly, he lost it a bit and need guidance.
Sometimes the ego of a person goes to far, in this instance it has. Duterte forgotten, that he represent all parts of the people, even the critical ones. They are labeling Rappler foreign when its not, and trying to muffle their reports. However, instead of debunking and showing the legitimate agreement, which is the main reason for this attack on the media company.
The reporter in question is known for being critical of Duterte, that is fact, still Duterte and Malacañang press corps could need that. But the administration and the president seems misguided. Duterte should show strength, not weakness. This is weak, really weak, petty even.
President Duterte, you have been able to beat the hell out of terrorists and are doing what you can beat communist rebels. Two noble fights, also the third to get rid of the drug-cartels. All of that has been for the betterment of the republic. However, this attack on Rappler, as it has been now from the administration since January 2018. This is just the latest after the state revoked it license. Seemingly, you have the courage and boldness to beat the ones with guns, ammunition and drugs.
But, you cannot manage a report from Rappler? Is that your Achilles heel? That is weak tea. Really weak tea. Steaming hot water, but with no flavor. Peace.