'Attack on press freedom': Lawmakers, critics condemn Ressa's arrest

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 13 2019 11:32 PM | Updated as of Feb 14 2019 10:51 AM

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MANILA — (UPDATED) Opposition lawmakers and critics of the administration on Wednesday night condemned the arrest of Rappler chief Maria Ressa over cyber libel charges.

Ressa was arrested following indictment for cyber libel over the complaint of businessman Wilfredo Keng on a Rappler article published in 2012, which the Department of Justice deemed "defamatory."

Rappler said their efforts to post bail on Wednesday night at the Pasay City night court did not succeed.

"Unfortunately, the judge refused to accept the bail despite having the power to do so under Rule 114 Section 17 of the Rules of Court," it said.

Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, in a statement, said the arrest "constitutes media censorship and abuse of legal tools to suppress and harass critical voices."

Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao, meanwhile, said the apprehension was "a frontal attack on press freedom."

Akbayan Partylist said Ressa's arrest "sends a chilling signal to all journalists and the public that press freedom is under attack by state forces."

Kabataan Party-list echoed the sentiment and said that there is "an ongoing crackdown" on the "dissenters and whistleblowers" of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration such as the media, priests, farmers and youth.

"The youth, as the 'pag-asa ng bayan,' continue to be the hope of the nation, and pledge to be the bearers of truth and the defenders of basic human rights, education, food, and dignity, against the state's continued attacks on media practitioners, truth exposers and the people," it said.
 
Partido Manggagawa, meanwhile, said the arrest was a "blatant attempt by the Duterte administration to harass and silence its critics and clip the wings of the free press under the guise of legal authority."

Makabayan senatorial bet Neri Colmenares said the arrest was a form of harassment.

"If Maria Ressa and Rappler were all praises for the government or if she uncritically kowtows to the government line, she would not have been arrested in this manner. In fact, the DOJ might have even dismissed the complaint against her," Colmenares said.

Otso Diretso bet and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said Ressa's arrest is a "clear attack on press freedom and justice system of our country."

"Naniniwala tayong dapat pag may sala, may parusa. Pero sa kasong ito, malinaw na ito ay tahasang pag-atake hindi lang sa malayang pamamahayag, kundi sa buong sistema ng hustisya sa ating bansa," he said.

(We believe that if there's an offense, there should be a punishment. But in this case, it is a clear attack not only on press freedom but also on the justice system of our country.)

Erin Tañada, another Liberal Party bet, said the Rappler chief's arrest has "no basis" as the Cybercrime Act was not yet passed at the time of the alleged malicious article's publication.

"The arrest of Maria Ressa proves how the present government has no space for a free press," he said.

Former Solicitor General and senatorial aspirant Florin Hilbay, meanwhile, said Ressa's arrest was clear harassment on journalists.

"Malinaw ang panggigipit sa ating mga mamahayag at sa karapatan nilang isiwalat ang kawalang-hiyaan at korapsyon ng napakaraming tao sa administrasyong ito.

(It is a clear harassment of journalists and their right to expose corruption under this administration.)

"Nakakagalit, nakakapanlumo. Tahasan na ang ginagawang pananakot sa matatapang na boses ng katotohanan laban sa kasinungalingan ng gobyerno," he said.

(It is offensive, appalling. It is a definite intimidation to the fearless voices of truth against the lies of the government.)

Gary Alejano, also an Otso Diretso bet, said that Ressa's arrest is a sign of the weakening democracy in the country.

"Ito ay isang matinding hamon para sa nagtataguyod at nagtatanggol ng katotohanan at katarungan sa ating bayan. Huwag tayong matakot magpahayag ng katotohanan para sa ating malayang kinabukasan," he said.

(It is a great challenge to those who are protecting the truth and justice in our country. Let's not fear to tell the truth for our free future.)