Rappler chief Maria Ressa is apparently trying to “escape from her legal obligations” by hurling accusations the government was supposedly weaponizing the law against critics, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said.
Andanar insisted that Ressa’s allegations against the government were unfounded while the criminal complaints filed against her were in adherence to the rule of law and due process.
The Palace official made the latest pronouncement after the European Parliament asked the Philippine government to drop the alleged politically motivated changes against Ressa.
“Despite her claims of ‘weaponization of the law’ against her, Ms. Ressa continues to enjoy her inherent right to express her beliefs and thoughts, whether they be verified or not,” Andanar said.
“Her continued allegations against the administration are being done deliberately to escape from her legal obligations,” he said.
Andanar also defended that the charges filed against Ressa were legitimate and based on the rule of law. The veteran journalist faces a string of charges such as alleged anti-dummy law and tax violations.
“The legitimacy of the criminal charges against Rappler and Ms. Ressa for their violations to the anti-dummy law, securities code, income tax law, and the cyber libel, for which she was convicted, are founded on the Philippines’ jurisprudence and constitution,” he said.
“To claim that these are being utilized to silence and intimidate them, and that of other violators, would be a total disregard to the rule of law and due process as prescribed by our constitution,” he said.
He said the government will never curtail free speech and media freedom, and would continue to protect these rights. “In fact, the Philippines continues to enjoy a plurality of voices, expression, opinions, and beliefs; hence, the continued operations of Rappler and Ms. Ressa’s pursuit for self-justification in response to their legal obligations,” he said.
European lawmakers recently passed a resolution expressing concern over the “deteriorating level of press freedom” in the Philippines. The resolution mentioned the conviction of Ressa as well as the shutdown of ABS-CBN network.
The EU parliament said it “condemns all threats, harassment, intimidation, unfair prosecutions, and violence against journalists, including the case of Maria Ressa; calls for all politically motivated charges against her and her colleagues to be dropped.”