Philippine Justice Remains Independent in Spite of External Pressures

Filipino journalist and former diplomat Rigoberto Tiglao has exposed the extent to which the website Rappler has been funded and aided by foreigners and foreign entities. Specifically, Rappler’s funding from the controversial Omidyar Network helps one to ascertain that Rappler’s agenda is influenced as much by its foreign benefactors as it is by its notorious CEO Maria Ressa, a woman who herself only received Philippine citizenship as recently as 2004. In a further piece in the Manila Times, Tiglao further described Ressa in the following way:

“Rappler CEO and Editor in chief Maria Aycardo Ressa has successfully fooled Western media that she is a Filipino journalist with little means who is fighting her country’s authoritarian President bent on suppressing media dissent.

The reality is that she is a well-off American citizen, who acquired Filipino citizenship in 2004 to make it legally easier for her to work as a manager at ABS-CBN Broadcasting, a media company where foreigners are banned by the Constitution from participating”. 

Tiglao continud, saying:

“Parallel to that role has been its function as the mouthpiece for US interests, its neoconservative ideology and its anti-China racism, compensated by a P100-million funding from American outfits North Base Media and Omidyar Network, two entities known to advance US political and economic dogmas in the world. (Omidyar Network promised to bankroll Ressa’s legal defense with a $500,000 kitty.)

That got Rappler into another serious legal trouble. First, in taking that foreign money, it violated the Constitution’s ban on foreign participation in media, a fact which Ressa appears to have been ignorant of as Rappler even boasted about it in an article.

Ressa tried to wiggle out of that legal trouble by claiming that the investment was in the form of securities. But she only dug her quagmire even deeper, as Rappler failed to pay capital gains taxes of P133 million in issuing those securities.

She’s lied to the world to cover up these boo-boos, claiming these suits were simply Duterte’s way of shutting her up.

Ressa has taken her citizenship duties quite seriously — her American citizenship, that is. She has voted in nearly all US national elections, the last one on Nov. 18, 2016 for the presidential elections that year. She has never voted in Philippine elections”.

Ressa’s ties to powerful people in the world’s wealthiest country present a clear challenge for The Philippines. President Duterte has governed from the position of total opposition to any and all forms of corruption. As such, under Duterte, politicians, police, judicial officials, civil servants and bureaucrats who have engaged in corrupt practices, notably the taking of bribes, have been arrested and imprisoned. But even so, the pressures that Ressa’s foreign army of moneyed comrades are capable of exerting, will continue to be a major litmus test for the clean government and clean law enforcement that Duterte has promised and thus far delivered.

Throughout recent years and this year in particular, Ressa has called upon her army of international friends to try and portray The Philippines as a despotic nation when the reality is that if anything, The Philippines lacks the strong governance and long established law and order of many other ASEAN nations, most notably the efficiently governed Singapore. Beyond this, those who actually understand Philippine media culture realise that far from being the North Korean style regime that Ressa suggests, Philippine media is largely a free for all – both in terms of opinion making and in respect of one’s allegiance to the facts.

And yet, things are beginning to slowly change and within this context, Ressa self-evidently took things too far when Rappler published defamatory statements regarding Filipino businessman Wilfredo Keng.

Wilfredo D. Keng had his name traduced by Rappler in an article originally published in 2012, before it was subsequently updated in 2014.

In the article in question, Rappler insinuates that Keng was involved in a number of illegal activities including the trafficking of narcotics and the trafficking of human beings. These serious allegations were not backed up by any evidence and as such, there is no reason why they should believed. Keng has therefore decided to take legal action against Rappler in order to clear his name and receive justice after the disgusting allegations have remained online (as they do to this day) on Rappler’s website.

Keng has brought a libel action against Rappler which carries a criminal penalty in The Philippines. As such, Ressa was arrested before being bailed, in relation to the prosecution stemming from Keng’s attempt to receive justice after having his name traduced by Rappler.

Yet in spite of Rappler’s many scandals, this has not stopped the outlet from pursuing its typical character assassination style of “journalism”. I know this first hand as Rappler has published seriously defamatory lies about me and has yet to retract or apologise for this.

As Ressa and her cohorts continue to pursue their tabloid style of mayhem masquerading as journalism, the total hypocrisy of Rappler’s CEO has been fully exposed.

In a piece from the 9th of February, about how the Rappler mentality has borrowed from the playbook of Nazi Germany, I said the following:

“In 1934, Germany’s chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels stated:

‘The cleverest trick used in propaganda against Germany during the war was to accuse Germany of what our enemies themselves were doing’.

Ironically, Goebbels’s statement which was intended to expose the propaganda techniques of Germany’s enemies during the First World War, actually indicated a method that Berlin would readily invoke against both domestic and foreign opponents in the run up to the Second World War”.

When I wrote the piece comparing the Rappler style of projecting onto its perceived political opponents, its own vices and flaws, I was unaware that Maria Ressa held any other passport than one from The Republic of The Philippines. But thanks to Mr. Tiglao’s truthful journalism, Rappler’s relationship to the propaganda of the Hitler Reich becomes all the more apparent.

Whilst Rappler’s CEO is herself a duel national who only received Philippine citizenship as recently as 2004, her organisation is facing libel charges for incendiary and damaging statements she wrote about Wilfredo Keng, a man who happens to himself be a naturalised citizen of The Philippines. But the hypocrisy does not end there. Rappler’s articles are filled with vitriol against President Rodrigo Duterte’s warm relations with China and other Asian powers. Finally, Rappler had the unmitigated audacity to publish seriously defamatory lies which attempted to link me personally (a non-Filipino) to a third foreign regime with which I have never had any professional relationships in any way.

This is the crux of the problem: Rappler attacks naturalised Philippine citizens who actually work to make The Philippines a better place, foreign nations with whom President Duterte has built good relations and non-Filipinos who genuinely care for the Filipino people. But whilst all of this was happening, Rappler’s CEO had concealed the fact that she herself was a US national, long before she became a citizen of The Philippines. In other words, Maria Ressa is far more “foreign” than many of those that Rappler viciously and barbarously attacks on a regular basis. Yet whilst others do not hide their own origins, as Rigoberto Tiglao has just exposed, Ressa and her ideological comrades have done much to conceal her origins.

Therefore, when it comes to accusing others of that which you are guilty, Rappler well and truly conforms to this model of Joseph Goebbels style disinformation,  even more readily than one could have imagined.

Again, there is nothing wrong with being a duel national and nothing wrong with being a Filipino-American. The problem with Ressa is not only her duplicity but Rappler’s penchant for attacking those who are partly or entirely not of Filipino origin, but who are in many cases, far better Filipinos than Ressa and her cohorts.

In any normal circumstance, Ressa’s antics would be enough to bring Rappler down as an organisation, but because of her wealthy friends and her confidence in the fact that her life lines in the US will continue to support her, Rappler is still very much alive, although it is certainly not well and has lost what little respect it once courted in the eyes of millions of Filipinos.

Apart from men like Tiglao, Mark Lopez and others who have stood up to Rappler’s bullying tactics, the Filipino judges who have issued their rulings against Rappler are also heroes. Whilst they are just doing their job, one could image the external pressures upon them to abrogate their duty in order to “play ball” with the mega-rich foreigners who have vested interests in saving Rappler’s sinking ship.

But instead of caving into such pressures, the judges who have made rulings on matters relating to Rappler have dutifully enforced domestic law against a sea of international pressures. This is likewise a victory for President Duterte, a man who has been steadfast in rejecting foreign meddling into the sovereign affairs of his nation, whilst also making it clear to all Filipinos that no form of crime, including corruption can pay.

This is the real victory. It is not one against Ressa or Rappler per se, but it is a victory for Philippine justice against forces whose powerful global influence have not been able to taint those whose job it is to enforce the laws of the land.

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