Duterte on Ressa’s TIME cover: ‘You can have it’ 

Rappler CEO Maria RessaPhilstar.com photo

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, December 13, alluded to the awarding of Rappler’s CEO Maria Ressa as TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year” during the birthday celebration of former Senator Manny Villar. 

“Time of the what, Time of the magazine, Time – ‘Woman of the Century’ and all, inyo na ‘yan (you can have it),” the president said as reported by Rappler.  

Ressa was one of the “Guardians” – journalists who have been persecuted for their work” – featured in TIME’s annual “Person of the Year” issue. 

“Ako, simple lang ako (Me, I’m a simple man). I am a worker of government and I work for the people. The long and short of my oath is, I have to protect the people of the Republic of the Philippines and I have to preserve the nation,” the president added. 

The Rappler CEO has been charged with several tax evasion cases specifically three counts of failure to file returns and one count of tax evasion against Rappler and Ressa. 

According to the TIME honoree, such move is an abuse of power on the part of the president.  

“They truly need to embrace the Constitution — not to manipulate it for what power wants, but to live by the principles and the spirit our forefathers wanted it to have,” Ressa said.

She also responded to presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo’s claims that the condition of press freedom in the country is robust.

“I urge Atty. Panelo to please look at what freedom of expression and freedom of speech mean,” Ressa challenged. 

Panelo then slammed Ressa for using the situation about their reporter Pia Ranada being barred from covering the Palace as a supporting argument to the curtailed press freedom statement. 

“She (Ressa) was complaining about Pia Ranada being barred and she says that it’s unconstitutional. First, we said that coming here in the Palace is a privilege and there are certain rules that should be followed by members of the Malacañang Press Corps,” Panelo said.

In February of this year, Duterte barred Ranada from covering Palace events as well as his activities after calling Rappler a “fake news” site. 

However, Panelo was quick to defend the president, noting that barring Ranada from covering would not change anything. 

“Even if Pia was disallowed from coming here, the fact is, you just saw, she can still ask questions and we are responding, she can still cover, nothing has changed except her physical presence,” Panelo explained. 

He went on to question why the incident involving Ranada was “not challenged” before the courts. 

Ressa wasn’t the only Asian honoree of the esteemed magazine cover. Young Reuters reporters Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone are currently in prison in Myanmar for their consistent reporting on the deaths of 10 Rohingya Muslims amid the ongoing ostracization and discrimination against the minority group in Myanmar.

Also featured in the issue — called “The Guardians and the War on Truth — was investigative Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose mysterious killing continues breed speculation into abuse of power among those who may be involved. 

The staff at historical Maryland newspaper The Capital Gazette also landed a cover for continuing to “press on” after a gunman entered their newsroom on June 28 and gunned down five of their colleagues.

“For taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts that are central to civil discourse, for speaking up and for speaking out, ‘The Guardians’ are the Person of the Year,” TIME editor Ed Felsenthal wrote. (With reports from Klarize Medenilla / AJPress)

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