We, the undersigned faculty of the Department of Communication and the Department of Political Science of the Ateneo de Manila University, strongly condemn the conviction of Rappler’s Maria Ressa and Rey Santos Jr for cyber libel.
We view Maria Ressa’s conviction as the Duterte administration’s latest attempt to dismantle the checks and balances of a democratic society. Coming just six weeks after the closure of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest network, the verdict is part of a long-standing, concerted effort to go after the administration’s most ardent and public critics. This sends a chilling message to all our citizens: the Duterte administration offers no safe harbor for those who criticize it.
Additionally, this government has displayed an obvious aversion to women who have shown the courage to defend our democratic institutions. Maria Ressa has been challenging this government’s strong-man politics, misogynistic tendencies and pronouncements, and has repeatedly stood up for what remains of Philippine democracy.
Instead of focusing its efforts on combating COVID-19 and responding to the economic hardships the pandemic has brought about, this administration uses its resources to target every group and institution, from the opposition, courts, civil society, constitutional commissions, to the media, that were designed and created to hold those in power accountable to the people. It seems to us that the current administration is most animated and proactive when looking for ways to intimidate and silence critics while it seems so inept and reactive when Filipinos demand efficient, and pro-people solutions to the current pandemic crisis.
We express our concern that if this government is able to use its resources in this attempt to silence the country’s most visible and high-profile, internationally known journalist, then how safe are the rest who toil daily with equal integrity to hold those in power accountable?
What about ordinary people themselves who, out of sheer suffering and frustration with governance, express their dissent?
Accountability, at any level, is not possible without a free press and an active citizenry. From campus publications, to small-town papers, to media groups and conglomerates, the journalistic profession forms an important bedrock of our democracy. Individuals share experiences, information, and perspectives to create a shared, common world where concerted political action becomes possible. Without a free press, vibrant critical exchanges, and an engaged citizenry, democracy simply erodes thereby making this shared world an impossibility.
As educators, we cannot allow ourselves to be mere spectators to the injustices that are unfolding right before our very eyes. This verdict, together with the myriad issues that this government has brought upon the Filipino people, strengthens our commitment to the formation of ethical, critical, and competent students. We hope that our students reject the kind of politics prevalent in Philippine politics today. We hope that our students condemn the disregard for the deepening of our democratic institutions in favor of the short-term gains of power. We hope our students instead consciously choose to become leaders that build free and democratic societies.
We must defend press freedom.
We must defend Philippine democracy.
The undersigned faculty of the Department of Communication and the Department of Political Science Ateneo de Manila University – Loyola Schools.
Department of Communication
Estelle Marie M. Ladrido (Department Chair)
Gershom C. Chua
Christine R. Cox
Inez Ponce de Leon
Atty. Numeriano Rodriguez
Serena M. Vaswani
Department of Political Science
Diana J. Mendoza (Department Chair)
Carmel V. Abao
Arjan P. Aguirre
Benjamin Roberto G. Barretto
Pilar Preciousa Pajayon-Berse
Anne Lan K. Candelaria
Hansley A. Juliano
Maria Elissa J. Lao
Atty. Tanya Lat
Atty. Antonio Gabriel M. La Viña
Oliver John C. Quintana
Ma. Lourdes Veneracion-Rallonza
Miguel Paolo P. Rivera
Alma Maria O. Salvador
Javier Rico Israel R. Tionloc
Benjamin T. Tolosa, Jr.
Fernando T. Aldaba (Dean, School of Social Sciences)