By Rigoberto D. Tiglao
RAPPLER CEO and editor in chief Maria Angelita Aycardo Ressa is an American citizen, who of course uses US passports that identify her nationality. She has been deliberately, yet cleverly, hiding this fact.
So have US media which rushed in, believing her lies against the Duterte administration, either because of their journalistic laziness or perhaps after all, proud that an American is lecturing this Third World country somewhere in the Pacific on press freedom and is being persecuted for it.
No wonder that American press institutions that want to impose their beliefs on Third World nations have showered Ressa with awards that a “brave Filipina” is fighting for press freedom in this country with a spineless local press.
It is so disgusting that Vice President Leni Robredo, Yellow senators like Risa Hontiveros, Church officials, and even academic institutions like the Ateneo and La Salle gave the benefit of the doubt to an American rather than to Filipinos patriotically serving the country like Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who ordered Ressa to be charged with cyber-libel, and Judge Reinalda Estacio-Montesa, who issued the arrest warrant against her.
Guevarra is such a respected legal eagle that Duterte appointed him to his post, even if he was formerly former President Aquino 3rd’s deputy executive secretary. Estascio-Montesa on the other hand is the country’s foremost expert in the novel field of cyber-crime, and was our sole representative in the European Union’s Global Action on Cybercrime. Her independence and integrity are obvious in that she was first appointed as trial court judge by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006 and then by Benigno Aquino 3rd as regional trial court judge in 2012.
Are these the type of people whom President Duterte can tell what to do, to “weaponize” – Ressa’s term – our laws?
Right after Ressa was arrested, the US embassy issued a statement — a rare one, her media outfit Rappler itself reported — which said: “We hope the charge against journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa will be resolved quickly in accordance with relevant Philippine law and international standards of due process.”
The statement was not due to US concerns over a purported attack on the press, as Rappler implied. It was simply because Ressa is a US citizen, and US embassies are required to publicly express concern over a high-profile citizen being arrested and charged in local courts.
If Ressa had to spend more than a day in detention, we would have seen a US embassy officer visit her to check on her situation, as is standard operating procedure for American embassies.
Going by the success of Ressa in spreading lies around the world, the framers of our Constitution were men of foresight when they put in our nation’s basic law: “The ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly owned and managed by such citizens.”
Oath of US allegiance
Ressa became a US citizen shortly after her family migrated to the US in 1973, and swore the oath of allegiance required of naturalized Americans, the very first sentence of which declares:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.”
No wonder Ressa has no qualms about lying to the world that the Philippine president is a dictator and is attacking the press. She just isn’t a Filipino, in the deeper meaning of the term.
While she acquired Philippine citizenship in 2004 under the country’s “dual citizenship law,” this has been only for convenience, for her to own property in the country. There is no oath similar to the US oath of allegiance (to “abjure” allegiance to one’s former country) in such re-acquisition of Filipino citizenship by a former Filipino.
Dual citizenship proved to be a huge advantage for Ressa as she claimed to be a Filipino in becoming a major stockholder of Rappler (and later Rappler Holdings), a firm in media, an industry where foreigners are totally banned from both investing in or managing.
So unlike Poe
Talk of “transparency” Ressa incessantly says this country needs: She has never disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission nor anywhere else that she swore to “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to” the Philippines. This is so unlike Sen. Grace Poe, who renounced her US citizenship to run for office in the country of her birth.
Ressa considers herself an American, and has been ashamed to claim to be identified as a Filipino when traveling abroad. Except once when she tried out her new Philippine passport issued under the dual citizenship law in 2004, Ressa has always used her US passports, four so far since the first was issued in the 1970s (US passports have 10-year validities).
She used her US passports in all of her 350 arrivals and departures in the Philippines in the past 14 years. With such frequency of travel, leaving the country almost every month, either Ressa has a secret job as international correspondent, spy – or so homesick of America she visits it so often. (I wonder if she charged her trips to Rappler.)
No wonder Ressa is so bold in spreading lies against Duterte. Behind her to defend her is the most powerful nation on earth. If ever Ressa is convicted of the crimes she is charged of and ordered jailed, she could just flee to the US.
Despite the Philippines’ extradition treaty with the US, the imperial power has had a track record of refusing to extradite its citizens hunted by police authorities or convicted by courts for some crime. This happened for instance even in the face of public outrage, as in the case of American Rod Strunk, the prime suspect in the murder of his wife Nida Blanca in 2001, whom the US has refused to extradite to the Philippines despite the charges against him.
US media foundations which showered Ressa with so much praise as a courageous fighter for press freedom struggled to hide her nationality.
For example, the Committee to Protect Journalists announced that its 2018 “International Press Freedom Awards go to a Vietnamese blogger, Venezuelan reporter, Ukrainian broadcaster, a Sudanese freelancer, a Cameroonian radio correspondent, and a Tibetan documentary filmmaker.”
How did it refer to Ressa who was given Columbia University’s Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award?
Just as “Rappler editor,” without identifying her nationality. The Columbia University functionary, Sheila Coronel, who lobbied for Ressa’s award, and who prides herself on being a top-notch investigative journalist, portrayed Ressa as a Filipina, that she “was born in the Philippines, migrated with her family to the US, and then returned to Manila in the 1980s.” She omitted to mention what would have been a significant information: That she assumed American citizenship in the 1970s and never gave it up.
Ressa though is not a rare creature in this sorry country. Not a few Filipinos who abandoned their country by becoming US citizens or to work abroad (even to purportedly teach investigative journalism in an Ivy League school) delight in bashing the country, without even doing research to verify information spewed in such publications as Rappler.
What’s happened to our country? Why do we allow an American to run a company in an industry totally reserved for Filipinos? Why do we allow this American to tell lies to the world that press freedom is under attack in this country, and that only she and her Rappler are bold enough to oppose a dictator? Why are so many among our political and intellectual elite so gullible to believe an American’s lies against this country and its government?
next Part 2: How Ressa salvaged her distressed career by being a tool of the Yellows and then bashing the country and Duterte
**The original copy of this article appeared in The Manila Times and was re-posted here with the authorization of the Author ***
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