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Opinion

The Nobel Prize

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Many Filipinos are now cheering for Maria Ressa, co-founder and CEO of Rappler, the country’s news website, because she was awarded the much-coveted Nobel Peace Prize, along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov.

One newspaper echoed the general sentiment in its editorial headline, shouting, “A thousand cheers for Maria Ressa.”

As a compatriot, I would have joined the others in heaping praise on Ressa.

But Ressa’s claim to fame – that she’s being persecuted by the Duterte government, the supposed proof of which is that she was convicted by a Manila court – is just not true.

There is no persecution of journalists in the Duterte administration. The Philippine media continue to be free; in fact, it is among the freest in Asia.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee’s appraisal that Ressa is being singled out by the government for her journalistic pursuits is inaccurate.

The prestigious Nobel Peace Prize is spot-on for science, when some individuals have made breakthroughs in their scientific fields of expertise. Science is exact.

But it’s doubtful when the award is given to individuals in a non-science or politically-sensitive category.

US President Barack Obama, nine months into his office, was given the Nobel Peace Prize on account of his being a political novelty: the first black man to get to the White House.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat shared the Nobel award in 1994 with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for their work on the Oslo Peace Accords.

The Oslo peace agreement didn’t end the conflict between Israel and Palestine. One member of the Nobel committee resigned over Arafat’s award, saying he was “the worst man ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Now, let’s go back to Ressa’s receiving that prestigious international award.

The Nobel committee erred in implying that the Duterte government was about to clap her in jail.

Ressa was convicted by a Manila court on a libel case filed by a wealthy businessman, Wilfredo Keng, whom Rappler said in its news report was linked to drug smuggling and was a murderer.

The government had nothing to do with Ressa’s conviction, which includes up to six years in prison. The case is on appeal.

Keng is a private citizen and is not a member of the Duterte government.

Keng was deeply hurt by the Rappler report that besmirched his reputation as a law-abiding citizen.

Keng filed another libel complaint against Ressa but was prevailed upon to drop it by this columnist who told him that he had “made his point.”

Willy Keng is my friend; he stood as godfather to my daughter years ago. If he were a notorious character, I would have avoided him like the plague.

The reputation of private persons, unlike those of government officials or employees, is protected by Philippine laws.

It’s easier for a private person than for a government bureaucrat to have access to the courts when it comes to seeking redress for a sullied reputation.

The courts almost always acquit journalists for writing unsavory reports about government people while they more often than not give them a guilty verdict when it comes to private citizens.

That’s what happened to Ressa and Rappler in the case of Willy Keng.

*      *      *

Do you want to hear something unbelievable?

Former senator and now presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos arrived in Hacienda Luisita aboard a helicopter with his wife Liza on Sunday, Oct. 10.

Hacienda Luisita is owned by the family of Corazon Cojuangco Aquino and her son Noynoy, both former presidents and now deceased; they were mortal enemies of the Marcoses.

The Marcos couple was invited to the wedding of Charlie Cojuangco, son of the late billionaire Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco.

With plenty of time to kill, Bongbong and Liza decided to go to the Luisita Golf and Country Club before proceeding to the residence of Louie Castillejo inside the vast sugar cane plantation.

From the Castillejo residence, the couple motored to Tarlac City, the venue of the wedding, which was held at 6:30 p.m.

Bongbong stood as one of the groomsmen in place of Iñigo Zobel.

The couple had to travel back to Manila by car as helicopters are not allowed to fly at night.

*      *      *

The rift between two officials of the Commission on Elections – Chair Sheriff Abas and Commissioner Rowena Guanzon – came to a head on Friday, Oct. 8, and was exposed on social media.

“Who? Who is the idiot?” Guanzon tweeted in Tagalog, in reference to Abas’ scolding Comelec staff for not following instructions.

“Can’t you follow instructions? I’m annoyed at you, EID,” Abas said, referring to the education and information department which is headed by James Jimenez.

Abas was upset because his instructions to subordinates were for a virtual news conference instead of an in-person news briefing for the end of the filing of certificates of candidacy at 5 p.m., Friday, at the Sofitel Garden Tent.

“You better watch out. I said virtual. Why do you listen to others? You’re idiots. Why didn’t you follow my instructions that it should be virtual?”

“You’re afraid of Guanzon but not afraid of me? Make everything virtual,” he told Jimenez, unaware that the incident was being streamed on Facebook.

“Why drag me into it? Who is the idiot? I have my UP (University of the Philippines) Law and Harvard degrees,” said Guanzon.

Abas is a graduate of the Ateneo de Davao College of Law.

So, it’s now a competition of academic credentials at the Comelec. Pataasan ng ihi.

*      *      *

Joke! Joke! Joke!

What’s the difference between a man buying a lottery ticket and a man arguing with his wife?

The man buying a lottery ticket has a chance to win.

MARIA RESSA
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