The news that Maria Ressa, CEO of Philippine online “news” site Rappler, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee has been met with more disgust than kudos by Filipinos. Those who were disgusted could not fathom how someone who has been spreading fake news and is a convicted felon could manage to receive a supposedly prestigious international award.
Those who were congratulating Ressa claim that she “brought honour to the country”. However, that claim has baffled a lot of Filipinos as well because, firstly, Ressa is also an American citizen and doesn’t even speak Filipino well. Her critics say her loyalty does not lie in the Philippines. That’s not too farfetched considering she didn’t grow up in the country. In fact, Ressa is quite often out of the country on her many PR blitzes or promoting herself and her body of “work”.
Second, Filipinos who are proud of Maria Ressa for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize either do not understand why she received it or don’t care if she painted the Philippines in a negative light before the international community just to win accolades and awards. Ressa once claimed before a 60 Minutes interviewer that “the situation in Manila is far worse than any war zone that I’ve been in”. That was a big fat lie. The situation in Manila was never like a war zone. A foreign journalist by the name of Ted McDonnell was outraged by Ressa’s claim and tweeted that it was “unadulterated bullshit”. He said he has worked in the Philippines for five years and knows that it is safer than many places in the USA.
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Filipinos who do not feel outraged by what Maria Ressa said should have their own loyalties examined. How can they let her lie like that? As Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao wrote in his column, Ressa was never a war correspondent. It wasn’t like she was on the ground as the fighting was going on. So her claim of being in a war zone was a lie as well.
Ressa would like everyone to believe that she is God’s Gift to Journalism and that she is saving the country from being torn apart. In every interview she has had with foreign journalists, her claim is always the same -– that journalists in the Philippines are “under attack”. It’s a complete fabrication. The truth is, there are Filipino journalists who don’t even like her because she acts like she is so full of herself. One journalist admitted to me that she is not well-liked in the industry. She is not really one of them. I can believe that because she is practically a foreigner. She sees the Philippines through the eyes of an expat. Her stint in ABS-CBN as head of the news division prior to creating Rappler was not great. There was talk of a toxic environment when she was there. Let’s just say that her colleagues did not miss her after she left.
In an recent interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Ressa said the biggest problem in the Philippines is the spread of misinformation. But the biggest source of misinformation in the country is mainstream media. There are journalists who are allied with politicians who publish negative propaganda against rival politicians. This was evident when former President Noynoy Aquino was still campaigning for the Presidency and even more evident during his six-year term. Ressa’s Rappler was a constant source of propaganda against Aquino’s enemies. Rappler kept publishing article after article against Aquino’s perceived enemies like the late former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. As a matter of fact, it was an article published against Corona that got Ressa and her journalist in trouble with the law.
Ressa’s bias is very evident in the way she criticises current President Rodrigo Duterte. She is relentless in publishing inaccurate articles against him. It wasn’t the case with the previous President. She was kinder and handled Aquino with kids’ gloves. This was odd considering Aquino’s term was disastrous and resulted in thousands of deaths due to his bungling management style. The environment was even more dangerous for journalists during Aquino’s term. I have not heard of journalists being murdered under Duterte’s term. It was only right for National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose to say that Ressa does not deserve her Nobel Peace Prize. Democracy is alive and well in the Philippines and that’s no thanks to Ressa. No journalist is in jail or in trouble just for criticising Duterte. The only reason why Ressa is in trouble is because she broke the law on foreign media ownership and for publishing of libelous content against a private citizen.
It’s disappointing how many foreign journalists fell for Ressa’s exaggerated statements about the real situation in the Philippines. It just goes to show that they will believe anything a fellow foreigner like Ressa would say just because the Philippines is a Third World country. It’s also further proof that a lot of foreign journalists are elitist and do not respect the country’s sovereignty. They prefer to apply their own version of “democracy”. What they don’t realise is each country has its own nuances and capabilities as a society. It is not always black or white.
Maria Ressa’s supporters and those with a misguided sense of national pride are asking why people can’t be happy for her. It’s because she won it by being dishonest. She painted herself as a victim of “oppression” and “tyranny”. The truth is, she has used her publication to terrorise people she personally does not like. The Nobel Prize committee just gave her more ammunition to continue what she does best – to divide and destroy the national fabric of the Philippines. Her Nobel Peace Prize is a big sham, indeed.
In life, things are not always what they seem.