June 15, 2020 will ever be remembered as a dark day, not only for independent Philippine media, but for all Filipinos.
The conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. has implications far beyond the case filed against them.
The decision basically affirms the State’s manipulation and weaponization of the law to stifle criticism and dissent, allowing the retroactive application of the law for a supposed offense committed before it existed by the simple expedience of declaring a typographical correction a “republication”, and recalibrating the prescription period for the offense.
In effect, the trial was a test run for the latest weapon the State can now wield to intimidate and silence not only the media but all citizens who call out government abuse.
The conviction of Ressa and Santos and the many other charges Rappler faces continue a chain of media repression that has seen the forced shutdown of broadcast network ABS-CBN and a spike in threats and harassment of journalists, all because the most powerful man in the land abhors criticism and dissent.
Coupled with a proposed Anti-Terror Law that practically cancels all the protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, we could be looking at the death of freedom as we know it.
But only if we allow it.
It would be a mistake for this vindictive and repressive administration to believe that, with this verdict, we will be cowed into submission.
The community of independent Filipino journalists and, more importantly, the Filipino people have proven ourselves capable of defending our rights and liberties.
This is true: Tyrants come and go, freedom, justice and truth will prevail.