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Dela Rosa: It's 'wrong' to give Maria Ressa the Nobel Prize if basis is press freedom

Pro-administration Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said it is “wrong” to award veteran journalist Maria Ressa with a Nobel Peace Prize if she was honored on the basis of press freedom.

“If the basis for awarding her is that she fought for press freedom, then mali ang awarding body niyan. Mali. Hindi ako agree dahil meron naman tayong press freedom,” Dela Rosa said in a virtual interview on Monday.

(If the basis for awarding her is that she fought for press freedom, then the awarding body was wrong. I don’t agree because we still have press freedom.)

“Mayroong press freedom dito sa atin. Mayroon bang taga-media na kinulong dahil sa kanyang pagbabalita? Wala naman,” he claimed.

(There is press freedom in the country. Are there media personnel who were jailed because of their news? None.)

Dela Rosa argued that Ressa was prosecuted because of a case filed by a private individual and not by the government.

“Si Maria Ressa ay nagkakaso at na-convict sa kaso na finile ng isang private individual. It’s not the government who filed the case against her… For me, personally, na ako’y tinatanong niyo, mali 'yung binigay na award,” he said.

(Maria Ressa was convicted because of a case filed by a private individual. It’s not the government who filed the case against her…For me, if you’ll ask me, giving her the award was wrong.)

Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. were convicted in June 2020 of cyber libel charges based on the complaint of businessman Wilfredo Keng. The case stemmed from a Rappler article in 2012 that cites an "intelligence report" linking Keng to human trafficking and drug smuggling. Ressa and Santos, the author of the article, moved for the reconsideration of the trial court's decision but the court stood by its ruling, prompting them to challenge their convictions before the Court of Appeals.

Dela Rosa also said he doesn’t “believe” that Ressa is deserving of a Senate medal of excellence following the Nobel Peace Prize award given to her.

Some of the senators over the weekend praised Maria Ressa for winning the prestigious award.

Last Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize  for their fight for freedom of expression in their countries.

GMA News Online contacted Rappler and Ressa for comment but has yet to receive a reply.

Ressa told Norwegian TV2 she was "shocked" and "emotional" to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The award would give her and her colleagues "tremendous energy to continue the fight," she said, according to a report of Agence France-Presse.

In June 2020, Ressa said it is misleading to say President Rodrigo Duterte values press freedom, citing instances when Duterte hit Rappler which, according to her, started from attacks on social media. 

These were followed by subpoena, a shutdown order, a revocation of permit or license to operate, she added. —KG, GMA News