POSTSCRIPT / October 12, 2021 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Oslo pressed to add PH to Nobel honors?

I FIND it awkward commenting critically on the output of fellow newspapermen, except when they are working under my administrative direction.

This was my frame of mind on Sunday when I congratulated Maria Ressa, Rappler CEO, who won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize together with Russian editor Dmitry Muratov, for helping guard press freedom as a precondition for democracy and world peace.

The award to Ressa, the very first Nobel ever won by a Filipino, has stirred an ugly debate over whether she deserved it or not – and whether or not the Nobel awards committee was right in assuming that press freedom was imperiled in the Philippines under President Duterte.

Both questions are a matter of opinion, so we don’t see the debate ending soon, especially at this time when we are moving toward the May 2022 national polls. The performance of Duterte, marked by his tight rein on state forces, is an election issue.

In a brief email Saturday with our Opinion editor when I filed my Sunday column, I said among other things regarding the Nobel prize and Duterte’s being a contributing factor:

“My hunch is: There was pressure (I won’t speculate from where) for Maria to get that Prize and help blunt Duts’ offensive, but on her own slim record she didn’t measure up to it.

“So to make her look bigger, they hitched her up on Muratov’s wagon who was on his way to get the Nobel with his newspaper paying with the bodies of six of his contributing writers.

“This sounds like necro-journalism on our way to November 1.”

Before that, I also checked with Rappler about Ressa’s citizenship (in my hurried email I erroneously typed “Pulitzer’s Prize” instead of “Nobel”) because some newsmen-colleagues were insisting on social media that Ressa is an American.

Rappler’s reply was that Ressa is a dual citizen – meaning she carries both Filipino and American citizenship.

Early Sunday, I posted on Twitter: “Without Duterte and his rough responses to criticisms, Rappler’s Ressa could not have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the first Filipino ever to achieve that. So do we give him some credit for her getting the Nobel?”

In the thread, I added: “Pardon me if the question sounds like: Was Judas a necessary element of the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Redemption?”

That was not meant to imply that Duterte was a Judas of sorts and that Ressa’s media output was a kind of an impending Redemption of Philippine media and the rest of the country.

With free will and all those basic points on the nature of man as a creature of God, that older debate over Judas’ role, ordained or accidental, in the Almighty’s divine plan for sinful man’s redemption is not about to end.

So, I dare say that this debate over Ressa’s contribution to the gross national journalistic output, having been blown up to Nobel proportions, may take time to simmer down.

This may be because the award, which comes as the Philippines moves to its May 2022 electoral rendezvous, has become politicized. Who politicized it? That is another question that will ignite another wildfire if left lying around.

My view is circumscribed by my not having read or viewed enough of Ressa’s body of works that should show the compelling Nobel attributes that nominees must carry to Oslo to win it.

Has Ressa, with her talented and dedicated Rappler team, produced – at the time of her nomination – more than the quantity and quality of journalism published, for comparison, by the women writers who needled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1980s?

These names of those valiant lady journos come to mind in no particular order: Letty Magsanoc, Sheila Coronel, Arlene Babst, Eggie Apostol, Betty Go, Marites Vitug, Chi-Chi Lazaro, among others.

Reports had it that there were at least 315 nominees for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, among them the World Health Organization and other health groups deep into research and services against the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and environment advocate Greta Thunberg… but it seems that they paled in comparison to Ressa and Muratov.

We cannot blame skeptics who see undue haste to include the Philippines through Ressa for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, just seven months before the May polls that will decide if this suffering nation, with its Duterte baggage on its back, will sink deeper or move at all.

Would the Nobel ruckus influence the May 2022 elections? By itself, I doubt if it would impact the results. But taken with other issues – including unexpected intervening events – it could.

But we should not just sit around, face shields and all, waiting for things to happen. We should move and make things of Nobel proportions happen.

 Autumn beckons to Duterte

DAYS ago, a weary-looking President Duterte said he was thinking of visiting Washington to thank the US for the millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses it has been donating to the Philippines – a perfect enough reason to lighten up and come over.

After the virtual speechorama at the United Nations weeks ago, Duterte can take advantage of the pleasant weather rolling in. I’m prejudiced because I love autumn, when leaves take various shades of red – including Lenish Pink! – before they let go and return to the earth.

Sir, there’s already that chill in the air hinting of cooler days, which is just perfect for visitors from da Pilipins. May I suggest that you bring along Kitty. She’ll love it, I’m sure.

Just prepare a few short simple statements to let America know that despite those theatrical love-hate remarks against Uncle Sam, the truth is “America is in the Heart”, as Filipino poet Carlos Bulosan (published 1943) so truthfully said.

Come over na, Sir, before the election madness rushes in to merge with the pandemic mess!

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 12, 2021)

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