Government lawyers have opposed the travel to Oslo, Norway starting Dec. 8 of Nobel Peace Laureate and Rappler Chief Executive Officer Maria A. Ressa to receive her award personally during a ceremony slated on Dec. 10.
Ressa had asked the Court of Appeals (CA), which is reviewing her 2020 conviction on cybercrime, to allow her to travel to Norway from Dec. 8 to Dec. 13.
In its opposition to Ressa’s travel, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) told the CA that she is “a flight risk.”
The OSG said: “Ressa is considered a flight risk in view of her various statements that are indicative of her believe that here the proceedings before the courts have been coerced and compromised to accommodate the Executive Branch. Her recurring criticisms of the Philippine legal processes in the international community reveal her lack of respect for the judicial system which consequently makes her a flight risk.”
It told the CA that Ressa was merely invited to attend the awarding ceremony on Dec.10, which she could do via video conferencing or other technological applications.
It said it is “aware that the Nobel Peace Prize is a prestigious award given to individuals who have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”
“However, it is respectfully submitted that accused-appellant Ressa has failed to present any compelling argument and or evidence proving the necessity and urgency of her travel to Oslo, Norway,” it said.
Also, the OSG said that “there is no showing that accused-appellant Ressa’s in person attendance thereto is necessary or her non-attendance in person to the events in Oslo, Norway would cause irreparable damage or prejudice to her.”
It said that Ressa right to travel is not absolute and subject to the restrictions imposed by the State; that she should be subjected to the same conditions imposed when asking for bail; and that there was no urgency to allow her to travel abroad to receive the award on Dec. 10 in Oslo.
In her reply, Ressa’s lawyer Theodore Te told the CA that she is not a flight risk.
The reply stated: “Ressa has sufficiently demonstrated the necessity and urgency of the travel sought, that she is not a flight risk, and that the Court’s Oct. 18, 2021 Resolution (while not automatically binding in this application) provides a basis for this Court to grant her application.”
It disagreed with OSG’s allegation that she issued various pronouncements criticizing her conviction that make her a flight risk. “This is not only without basis but also fundamentally dangerous,” the reply pointed out as it underscored that Ressa has the right to free speech and expression under Article III of the 1987 Constitution.
It stressed that receiving a Nobel Peace Prize is a one in a lifetime experience.
It also pointed out:
“The importance of the awarding ceremony and Ms. Ressa’s presence there cannot be understated. It is necessary and urgent travel for Ms. Ressa herself: plainly, this is a unique and very unusual situation, and there would be very grave prejudice to her were she to miss this opportunity. Put simply, she will not be awarded a second Nobel Peace Prize; this is a once in a lifetime occasion. Her non-presence in Oslo on Dec. 10, 2021 would undoubtedly cause her irreparable damage and prejudice.”
The reply reiterated that Ressa’s travel to Noway would be in the interest of the Philippines’ international standing. However, her absence at the event “would be both conspicuous and difficult to explain,” it added.