Guilty verdict on Maria Ressa and Rappler could mean death knell for democracy in the Philippines

Is Maria Ressa the next prize catch of Duterte?

Updated: June 14, 2020, 7:45 AM


Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas


For who will be next?

It could be you and me.

Today (it is already Monday in the Philippines) we await the verdict on the celebrated case of Maria Ressa and Rappler, Inc. the online paper she founded eight years ago.

Hours from now as you are reading this, the verdict could come crushing down like a torrent. It might be thousands of miles across the ocean but its chilling effect will be felt here in Canada, or around the world wherever Filipinos are.  

Duterte may have his ‘pound of flesh’ but the spirit of freedom will not die with a guilty verdict.

Duterte should have learned from his idol, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos who had ordered the killing of his most outspoken rival, Ninoy Aquino, that killing a man does not kill the spirit.

Much has been written about the case – the legal as well as the moral aspects and there is nothing that we can add that will tilt the case either way.

We cannot remain silent

But we say this: In times like this as in other times in our history, we stood on the side of freedom.

We cannot remain silent when others have already given up their lives.

Still others are languishing in jail like Senator Leila de Lima, locked up ‘incomunicado’ ( no communications) for more than three years now for standing up to the tyrant Duterte.

We cannot remain silent when more than 30,000 innocent victims, most of them poor people, have been killed ‘extra-judicially’, ( a euphemism for killing without due process ) meaning Duterte and his minions acted as judge and executioner.

There are those who pretend to hide behind the flimsy argument of the ‘rule of law’ – a mockery in the face of the present reality.

For what rule of law are we talking about when the widow of Marcos is still free despite being convicted of serious crimes?  When known drug kingpins are still roaming the country doing business as usual while poor addicts are mowed down like pigs in the through.

Don’t tell me about the rule of law.

Duterte Law

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo (left) recommends signing of anti-terrorism law to President Rodrigo Duterte. (Malacañang file photo)

In the Philippines today, even as we write, there is only one law.

That is Duterte’s law!

We’ve always said that the Philippines has been in a ‘de facto’ martial law – a state of martial law without having it officially declared.

Duterte, unlike his predecessor and idol Marcos, is torturing the country by a “thousand cuts”. Unlike Marcos who declared martial law swiftly and categorically, he bleeds the people little by little.

A declaration of martial law in Marawi City, closing Boracay without so much as a discussion with local authorities, jailing his most vocal critic Senator Leila de Lima, replacing Supreme Court Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the closing of ABS/CBN and now Rappler.

Congress, the judiciary, and the military for which he relies for his power for now, is all under his complete control. 

We could go and on ad nauseam.

To his credit, Duterte is playing by his own book.

Little by little, he is preparing the minds of the people that he is doing this for their own good – beginning with his so-called ‘drug war’. You know, rid the country of ‘vermin’ and maintain law and order.

Ironically, the case of Maria Ressa comes up as the draconian Anti-Terrrorism Law has just been passed and awaits Duterte’s signing.

As the Philippine Left used to say at the height of the terrorism mania, the real terrorist is Duterte.

For who will be next?

It could be you and me.

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