MANILA - The Political Science and Communication departments of Ateneo de Manila University on Monday issued a joint statement on the conviction of journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa for cyber libel, which it referred to as "the Duterte administration's latest attempt to dismantle the checks and balances of a democratic society."
Faculty members from the two departments, led by Ateneo's School of Social Sciences dean Fernando Aldaba, said they "strongly condemn" the conviction of both Ressa and former Rappler researcher Rey Santos Jr., urging their students to take a similar stance.
"Coming just six weeks after the closure of ABS-CBN, the country's largest network, the verdict is part of a long-standing, concerted effort to go after the administration's most ardent and public critics. This sends a chilling message to all our citizens: the Duterte administration offers no safe harbor for those who criticize it," read the statement, which was sent to ABS-CBN News and was also posted on Ateneo's Facebook page.
"Instead of focusing its efforts on combating COVID-19 and responding to the economic hardships the pandemic has brought about, this administration uses its resources to target every group and institution, from the opposition, courts, civil society, constitutional commissions, to the media, that were designed and created to hold those in power accountable to the people," it added.
Reiterating their commitment to "the formation of ethical, critical, and competent students," the two departments hoped that Ateneans will "condemn the disregard for the deepening of our democratic institutions in favor of the short-term gains of power," and instead "consciously choose to become leaders that build free and democratic societies."
"We must defend press freedom. We must defend Philippine democracy," it ended.
Read the full statement below: