MANILA – Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa is a “walking testament” that press freedom in the country is still “very alive” amid allegations that her arrest is the administration’s way of attacking critics, according to the Malacañang.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a television interview that Philippines is the freest country in terms of respect to expression.
“Maria Ressa is the walking testament that freedom of the press as well as of expression are very alive in this country,” Panelo said in an interview with ABS CBN News Channel.
He added: “Until now, she’s still using that freedom to assault the government and this administration. Ang galing-galing nga na ang daming banat, kaliwa’t kanan, wala naman, hindi pinapansin.”
Press freedom in the country was put in question following the arrest of Ressa last week over a cyber libel complaint filed by businessman Wildredo Keng, whom a Rappler’s story named as the owner of a luxury vehicle used by former chief justice Renato Corona.
Instead of questioning press freedom, Panelo advised Ressa’s camp to “focus on your defense” instead of arguing that the one-year prescription had already lapsed when Keng filed the case in 2017.
“That is a legal issue, let the court decide…Stop dragging the government or this administration or the President relative to your case. Walang kinalaman ang Presidente d’yan,” Panelo said.
He added: “Even if those persons were not subject of criticism of the President, if evidence shows that they committed a crime, they will be facing charges in court. There are so many people critical of the President, hindi naman sila idinidemanda.”/PN