By CONG B. CORRALES
Associate Editor .
A GROUP of Cagayan de Oro-based editors joined media and human rights groups in condemning Friday’s arrest of Rappler executive editor and chief executive officer Maria Ressa and labeled it as a direct attack to press freedom. It was Ressa’s second arrest.
JB Deveza, a former editor-in-chief of Sunstar Cagayan de Oro and now safety officer for Mindanao of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines called Ressa’s arrest as a “relentless assault on the press and (President) Duterte’s critics.”
The second arrest of Ressa had another chilling effect on journalists and other media workers across the country, said Nelson Contantino, editor-in-chief of Businessweek here.
The arrest, he said, was a case of “weaponizing the law to silence perceived enemies” of the Duterte administration.
Constantino added that it would be stupidity for journalists to turn a blind eye to what he saw as a bold move in making use of the law and government resources against Ressa.
He said his immediate concern is not so much on the prospects of conviction and imprisonment but on the “fear of restraint.”
The present editor-in-chief of Sunstar Cagayan de Oro and Philippine News Agency bureau chief, Nef Luczon, said it is bad enough that social media trolls have launched attacks to discredit mainstream media, and now, government is joining the fray.
“Duterte supporters should not politicize and make the arrest an excuse to discredit and attack press freedom, and democratic rights to free expression by tagging Ressa as ‘yellow,’ ‘LP,’ ‘saboteur,’ etc.,” Luczon said.
Herbie Gomez, this paper’s editor-in-chief, said Ressa “is becoming a journalism heroine while her oppressor is leaving its mark in history as the most vicious, contemptible, egotistical, unjust, imperious, cruel, capricious, vindictive, obtuse, unreasonable, oppressive, vociferous, morbid, brutal, sadistic and cold-blooded enemy of press freedom and petty tyrant in Southeast Asia, if not the world, during the first quarter of the 21st century.”
Gomez added: “It toys with our laws and seems to have convinced itself that shutting up the free press and squelching dissent is like a chess game.”
On Thursday, police officers served the warrant of arrest right after Ressa deplaned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 1. The arrest stemmed from a case for the violation of the Anti-Dummy Law. The warrant of arrest was issued by Judge Acerey Pacheco of Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 265.
The complainant, the National Bureau of Investigation, alleged that Rappler violated the Anti-Dummy Law when it issued Philippine Depositary Receipts to a foreign investor, Omidyar Network.