Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on Tuesday denied claims of presidential spokesperson Harry Roque that President Rodrigo Duterte supports press freedom, saying the chief executive has “patterns” in attacking their agency and the press.
Ressa said Roque’s statement defending Duterte is “misleading” and “a lie.”
Ressa said there were “patterns” in Duterte’s actions that showed otherwise including the series of his criticism and alleged attack against Rappler.
“Roque is a smart man. I can sit down and go through President Duterte’s statements—you’ll see them in A Thousand Cuts, the film—his statements that attacked media, that attacked the press,” Ressa said during an interview on ANC.
“It’s a selected memory for Mr. Roque,” she said.
“I feel like to say that President Duterte values freedom of the press is misleading at best, a lie at worst,” Ressa said.
She recollected the instances when Duterte hit the news site, which, according to her, started from attacks on social media.
“The exponential attacks on social media trying to label me as a criminal were followed by President Duterte, a year later, saying those same attacks in his State of the Nation Address…” Ressa said.
Last Monday, Roque said Duterte never filed a libel case against any journalist and actually supported Davao broadcaster Alexander Adonis in raising concerns over libel laws before the United Nations.
After the SONA in July 2017, Ressa said the first subpoena was issued against them.
“Within a few months in January 2018, we received a shutdown order, a revocation of our permit or license to operate. We challenged it in court,” she said.
“But the advice we got is, ‘You know just let it pass, just shut down the company, and start another one.’ This is all behind the scenes,” she added.
Ressa said that the issue is not a personal thing for her, “but four years into the administration, we have patterns, actions.”
Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. were convicted of libel on June 15 by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46.
They both remain free after being granted post-conviction bail.
In 2019, government prosecutors indicted them over a Rappler article in 2012 that cites an “intelligence report” linking businessman Wilfredo Keng, the complainant, to human trafficking and drug smuggling.
Keng denied all allegations in the article.
Keng’s daughter, Patricia Anne, was appointed as a member of the Philippine Commission on Women for the youth sector in September 2019.
However, Keng’s counsel, lawyer Melissa Andaya, said the businessman does not know Duterte personally despite the appointment of his daughter./Stacy Ang