Maria Ressa, CBS News and Their Fictional Warzone

The "worse than a war zone" description of the Philippines made by Ressa through CBS News is nothing but fictional. A work of fiction that has the intention of putting down the Philippines and undermining the will of the majority of Filipinos and the duly-elected government of President Duterte. 

This past week, former CNN correspondent and current Rappler head Maria Ressa, an Indonesian-born American liberal and a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration, appeared on the news magazine "60 Minutes," which is being aired by American television network CBS. 

During the interview conducted by reporter Bill Whittaker, Ressa claimed that reporting from the Philippines is "far worse than any war zone that she had been in," saying that "in a war zone one knows exactly where the threats are coming from" and that she and her staffers at Raffler" have been living through three years of hell." In addition, she claimed that there are threats to her life coming from all sorts of sources,from "trolls" in social media to the Philippine government"pounding her into silence."

CBS correspondent Whittaker did fly to the Philippines to get the side of Duterte, but the President did not grant the permission for him to interviewed. Instead,it was Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo who was interviewed by the American journalist. However, based on the way it was carried out, Whittaker's way of conducting the interview was heavily skewed against Duterte and the Philippine government, with him forcing the issue on the still unproven claims of "thousands of deaths" due to the "bloody drug war" in front of the Presidential Spokesperson. Panelo was kind enough to tolerate the usual American media arrogance of Whittaker, with him answering each question point by point and telling straightforward that "it is difficult to bring out the truth on what is really happening in the Philippines," which seems to be an allusion on how adversarial the press is towards the Philippine government.

It is clear that the obviously liberal to leftist press both in the Philippines and in the West have one goal in mind: To undermine the Duterte administration and the efforts being made to rid the Philippines of the vermin of the narcotics trade, especially with the way drug syndicates and heavily drugged criminals destroy the peace and order in communities, and put the Philippines in a bad light. To make matters worse, it seems that the government communications team, which is supposed to counter propaganda and biased reportage, seems to be sleeping on the job, with Senator Bong Go doing the role that it is supposed to perform.The rabid anti-Duterte liberals and the leftists, both in the Philippines and abroad, and the powerful interests that back them have shifted the propaganda battle to North America and Western Europe, knowing that they are not going to win back the Filipino people, as the President enjoys an 80 percent trust and approval rating from his constituents.

As to the Philippines being, in Ressa's words, "worse than any war zone," the common Filipino are enjoying more peaceful communities and streets free from criminals and drug addicts since the Duterte administration embarked on its anti-narcotics drive. According to Philippine National Police data last May 2019, the total crime volume throughout the country decreased by ten percent to 38,284 compared to 42,527 in May 2019, with the number of index crimes such as murder, homicide, physical injury, rape, robbery, theft, carnapping, and cattle rustling being lower by 22.6 percent from 7,421 in May 2018 to 5,744 in May 2019. A Social Weather Station (SWS) poll conducted from June 22 to 26, 2019 showed that 82 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with the government’s illegal drug campaign, while only 12 percent were dissatisfied and six percent being undecided, resulting in an “excellent” +70 net satisfaction rating despite the relentless skewed reportage of local and foreign partisan press outlets such as Rappler and CBS News and propaganda campaign coming from the liberals and the Rejectionist and Reaffirmist Maoists.

It should also be known that the lawsuits that Ressa and Rappler are facing were filed not by President Duterte or the Philippine government but private individuals who felt that their honor and privacy have been compromised due to skewed reportage. The cyber libel case and 50 million-peso damage suit that she and several others was filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng, who was accused by a 2012 Rappler report that was republished 2014 of "alleged involvement in illegal activities, such as human trafficking, drug smuggling, murder, smuggling of fake cigarettes and granting special investors residence visas to Chinese nationals." The tax evasion cases were filed against Ressa by the Bureau of Internal Revenue for allegedly the failure of Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC), the company where is the Chief Executive Officer, to supply correct information in its value-added tax Returns and income tax returns for the third and fourth quarter of 2015 and attempt to to evade payment of taxes in 2015 for the sale of Philippine Depositary Receipts to NBM Rappler LP and Omidyar Network Fund LLC. The case for violation of the Philippines' anti-dummy law and Securities Regulations Code (SRC) was filed against her and several other personalities by prosecutors after the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked Rappler's registration in January 2018 because Rappler allowed foreign-owned Omidyar Network to hold Philippine Depositary receipts (PDRs),which are a type of security that grants the holder the right to the delivery or sale of the underlying shares of stock, and is usually not an evidence of ownership of a corporation. All of these lawsuits were clearly the results of alleged misdoings of Ressa and her associates and staffers and not a type of harassment or assault on press freedom coming from the Duterte administration.

Lastly, how can the Philippines be "worse than any war zone" where there is virtually no freedom of speech and freedom of the press when the Filipino people themselves can speak and express themselves freely, Rappler and other hostile media outlets can openly attack the Duterte administration, and Leni Robredo, Leila de Lima and other critics of the administration keep on appearing on traditional and non-traditional media to criticize the President? A non-commissioned poll of the SWS conducted in June 2019 showed that six in ten or 59 percent of Filipino respondents agreed with the statement, "I can say anything I want, openly and without fear, even if it is against the administration," resulting to a a "very strong" score of +41.The same survey also showed that 67 percent of respondents believe that there is press freedom in the country by agreeing to the statement "mass media in the Philippines have freedom of speech, of expression and of press,"yielding a "very strong" score of +57.

The"worse than a war zone" description of the Philippines made by Ressa through CBS News is nothing but fictional. A work of fiction that has the intention of putting down the Philippines and undermining the will of the majority of Filipinos and the duly-elected government of President Duterte. It is high time for the administration to deal with such utterly irresponsible and slanderous statements and propaganda appropriately, especially if it is carried out and even financed by foreigners who are working in cahoots with Filipinos.


About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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