MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang defends President Rodrigo Duterte against critics alleging the Chief Executive of curtailing press freedom with the conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.
Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the President has never charged a journalist in court and that the existing Cyberlibel Act that convicted Maria Ressa was enacted not under his term but under the term of former President Benigno Aquino III.
“Hindi po administrasyon ni President Rodrigo Duterte ang nagsulong ng Cyberlibel Act (kundi ang) administrasyon po ni President Noynoy Aquino [It was not the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte that pushed for the Cyberlibel Act but it was the administration of President Noynoy Aquino],” Roque noted.
Despite criticisms, the Palace said it is acknowledging the court’s decision on Ressa’s case and so it urges the public to do the same.
Afterall, Roque said, Ressa and her co-accused, former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr., may still appeal the case in the higher courts.
Ressa and Santos were allowed to post bail for the case and were given 15 days to appeal the verdict.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the court ruling calling the arraignment a ‘dark day’ not only for the independent media in the Philippines but to all Filipino people.
This is a dark day not only for independent Philippine media but for all Filipinos,” the group said.
“The verdict basically kills freedom of speech and of the press,” it added.
But the group of journalists said the verdict will never be a reason for them to stop their fight for press freedom.
“But we will not be cowed. We will continue to stand our ground against all attempts to suppress our freedoms,” the NUJP said. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)
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