Opposition congressmen slam Ressa arrest

By Ben Rosario

Opposition congressmen decried Friday the arrest of veteran journalist Maria Ressa which they blamed for the alleged Duterte government’s lack of respect for free speech and press freedom of Filipinos.

Reps. Emmi De Jesus (Gabriela Partylist); Gary Alejano (Magdalo Partylist) and Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna) condemned in separate press statements Ressa’s arrest Friday.

They were joined by the senatorial bet and former Bayan Muna Rep. Nery Colmenares and the Akbayan partylist.

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa waves to photographers after posting bail outside a court building in Manila on March 29, 2019. - Ressa, a prominent critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, was rearrested in what press freedom advocates called retaliation for her news site's dogged coverage of the government. (Photo by MARIA TAN / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)
Philippine journalist Maria Ressa waves to photographers after posting bail outside a court building in Manila on March 29, 2019. (Photo by MARIA TAN / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

Ressa was arrested by the police as soon as she arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from a trip Friday. Facing a charge of violating the Anti-Dummy Law, she was released later after posting bail.

De Jesus described the arrest, the second this year, as proof of the points “Duterte regime’s silly but dangerous addiction in shutting down critical voices.”

“This coincides with the persistent cyber attacks on well-established alternative media websites such as Bulatlat which are at the receiving end of an enormous and well-funded cyber crackdown,” said the lady solon.

De Jesus added: “All these prove that pursuing alternative views contrary to the dominant rosy narrative under Duterte is to risk being arrested, persecuted and silenced in cyberspace.”

On the other hand, Zarate and Colmenares also noted that the alleged Ressa harassment and the alleged black propaganda against the Left-leaning Makabayan bloc “shows the heightened harassment and impunity of the Duterte administration against its critics.“

“Rappler’s critical reports on Duterte’s government had to do with the latest arrest just as my and the Makabayan bloc’s continued opposition to the Duterte administration’s anti-people policies which led to their intensified attacks against us!” said Colmenares.

The senatorial candidate lamented that after his expose on the China loan agreements, tarpaulins appeared demonizing him and the Makabayan-affiliated partylist groups and even a front page article maligning the bloc.

Zarate claimed that Makabayan partylist bloc have been the object of various forms of attack such as “black propaganda and red tagging but in the provinces like in Panay and Samar our members are also being killed and their communities are being militarized.”

“We are calling on all freedom loving people to band together and condemn any attacks on human rights defenders and media,” Zarate said.

Alejano chided Malacanang for its alleged “twisted priorities and selfish interests.”

“I call on the Filipino people to support the remaining bastions of democracy. Press freedom is not only for journalists but for the people who deserve the truth through critical and independent reporting,” the Magdalo senatorial bet said in a statement.

Akbayan warned that the arrest indicates that the country is set “to move towards authoritarian rule.”

“The President wants to paralyze freedom of the press as part of his authoritarian project”, Akbayan Partylist spokesperson Gio Tiongson said.

READ MORE: Ressa freed after posting bail