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Opinion

What is happening?

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

Several readers asked why if Amal Clooney’s mother is a friend, should I take issue against George Clooney’s support for Maria Ressa.

The Hollywood actor in an audio statement to the press praised the alleged American Filipino and editor and publisher of Rappler as “The bravest of them all.” Maria Ressa said she will return home to face tax evasion charges by the Duterte government. Rappler is allegedly financed by American sectors out to destabilize the Duterte government.

As of 2017, reports said Rappler is owned primarily by Rappler Holdings Corp., which is in turn owned by Dolphin Fire Group (31.21%), Maria Ressa (23.77%), Hatchd Group (17.86%), Benjamin So (17.86%), and 9.3 percent of minority shares.

Rappler’s targets are Philippine government officials who pursue an independent foreign policy. That is the connection.

During GMA’s time anti China groups reportedly gathered 30,000 signatures against her for doing business with China. It has continued attacks against the Duterte government for following Arroyo’s independent foreign policy.

Rappler is the media vehicle against any Philippine government which pursues that policy. Unless we are aware of its colonial motivation to destabilize the Duterte regime, we will remain a victim of that policy.

“Contrary to her portrayal as a hapless journalist struggling against a powerful state, she is under the protection of the world’s most powerful nation, the US, whose embassy here quickly issued a statement after her arrest that it expected Ressa’s case “to be resolved quickly in accordance with relevant Philippine law and international standards of due process,” writes Bobi Tiglao.

Baria remains a friend but our country’s well-being is paramount. In a letter to me after the marriage she pointedly told me not to make a political issue of Amal acting as the lawyer of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I wondered what she meant by that. Was it the column that said it was “a strong team of political power and “Hollywood for human rights“ with Rappler as its media vehicle.

At the time George Clooney and Amal had just met and there was no courtship to write about. When Amal met George all I knew were snippets in tabloid newspapers saying that George was dating a popular figure. When I met Baria in London and asked her about the rumors she said there was no truth to it and rebuked me for believing tabloid rumors. “You are a serious journalist and I don’t expect that of you.”

That conversation passed and we went back to more mundane things like “did you get me the wooden salad fork and spoon?” I gave it to her. On another table were a group of Filipino journalists who were also in PAL’s inaugural direct flight from Manila to London.

I gave a small dinner for her because I wanted her to meet with Ambassador Alberto Encomienda on sea border disputes which Amal’s firm Doughty Chambers is famous for.

One of its members of the firm is Emilie Gonin who is described as a solicitor with an “enthusiasm matched with a razor-sharp mind” – she comes in for particular commendation for her “great breadth of knowledge” that “promotes cross-fertilisation from extradition to investor-state disputes” (Who’s Who Legal, UK Bar: Arbitration 2019”. Amal agreed both Philippines and China would be helped by the legal advisers on border disputes.

I also invited Francis Manglapus and the Lebanese honorary consul and his wife. The next day former Speaker Jose de Venecia invited us for lunch. He cooked spaghetti vongole which is his favorite dish. (Gina was in Pangasinan).

And then the question came up. It came from Speaker de Venecia. Why he asked her was she not married. She was 36. She gave a brief answer and later told me privately that she had a French oil magnate but she broke up because marriage and a journalistic career were incompatible. I left it at that until a few days later Francis called me to ask “did you know George Clooney actor is dating Amal Clooney?

GMA’s case had been taken over by other solicitors in Doughty Chambers. Amal did email to ask me not to write or print pictures about the dinner and lunch or print the pictures. But it came too late. With a cellphone, everyone in the dinner or lunch took pictures.

I did not hear from her again and was surprised with George Clooney’s recent statement that “Maria Ressa is the bravest of us all.“ George knows little about GMA, President Duterte or indeed the Philippines. Why should he be up there heading a movement against Philippine president Duterte?

AMAL CLOONEY

GEORGE CLOONEY

MARIA RESSA

RAPPLER

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