Opposition “thought leaders” keep echoing recently-crowned Nobel “Peace Prize” laureate Maria Ressa’s dubious assertion that there is a “war on truth” perpetrated by the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. One such parrot is PhilSTAR lifestyle columnist Joel Pablo Salud who, in a Facebook post, wrote about, you guessed it, “ongoing repression of press freedom in the Philippines” that national artist F. Sionil Jose recently “conveniently dismissed”. He also takes issue with the idea that criticism Ressa has been receiving “goes with the territory” of being a Nobel laureate…
Many Nobel winners received flak for being chosen, they said. My answer: The question of whether Ressa was deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize or not is worlds apart from the criticism leveled on Pearl S. Buck and others.
How is the situation different from the past? Journalists killed in the practice of their profession are usually in the provinces when they run afoul of local political kingpins. Those who belong to leftist-militant media organizations such as Bulatlat, Kodao, and Altermidya are included in the order of battle of the state because they incite sedition. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) is an organization that is critical of administrations which don’t hew to their ideological line. The image created is there is suppression of freedom of the press in the country when, in truth, there is none. All publications are free to print what they please. What is different with President Rodrigo Duterte is that he directly engages his detractors who have crossed the line as in the case of Rappler and then Manila Standard columnist Kit Tatad.
American media is no different from the Philippines. During Donald Trump’s Presidency, he was covered by the press with a microscope which isn’t the case with current President Joe Biden now. During the administration of former President Noynoy Aquino, the press had no choice but to go after the news because they couldn’t afford to ignore it due to the scale of Aquino’s blunders. These journalist-activists pursue their agenda against the state as part of a concerted effort to discredit the present administration and get public opinion to the side of the Opposition. The problem is the public sees through them already. Their blinders have come off. This is why the truth and principles in the practice of journalism in the country have been done away with. That is not important anymore. What matters is the defeat of illiberalism as symbolized by Duterte and labeled by them as Dutertismo.
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What is more serious here is the breakdown in the social mores that govern civil behavior. Civility has gone out the window. It appears that the primary consideration now is which side of the journalists bread is buttered and by whom. One cannot deny that Ressa’s backers have a sinister agenda and that she is a pawn in the events that are unfolding. The same method was employed in the past in the then opposition’s struggle against former President Ferdinand Marcos. But we should ask ourselves the question, why is it that the Opposition continues to use the Marcoses as an issue? They had all of thirty years to prove all their allegations and do better as what they promised in the snap election campaign. The Opposition had been engaged in a gaslighting campaign against the public. They have gone to the extent of describing the country as a “battered woman” under Duterte.
The 2022 election will decide with finality whose opinion reflects the public’s. Should Marcos win it would be vindication for him. But the odds are stacked against Marcos because everyone knows that the opposition will do everything in its power to prevent him from winning if he is indeed the people’s choice. Perhaps this is what the senior statesman, Juan Ponce Enrile warned about last week. The lengths at which the opposition would go to prevent a Marcos win at the polls would exact a heavy toll if they push with for a confrontation.
I hope my friends are aware that there are vested interests ready to fan the fire to gain tremendous advantage and benefit from an escalation of the discord. It seems to me that the national political situation in the country is nearly like to what happened before President Marcos declared Martial Law 49 years ago in 1972. I hope you, my friends, use your brilliant minds to analyze the political situation and avoid the eruption of an unintended and unwanted civil strife in the land.
In effect, what Enrile is saying is once the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put him back in. Remember that a divided nation bolsters the Opposition’s chances of winning. But what if the people are decided that they are done with the Opposition and tired of disunity? The stakes are high in this election cycle not only because we need a capable leader to guide the country through the pandemic but also the time to make a decision about the unanswered question of the “Edsa Revolution” has come to pass.
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