Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday said the second arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa should raise more concern among Filipinos, as it poses a threat against all journalists and their mission to keep the government in check.

As she underscored the importance of the issue being faced by Ressa, VP Leni noted how many people still do not seem to care about it because they think it does not affect them. 

“Parang marami tayong mga kakabayan na wala pa ding pakialam, kasi ‘Hindi naman tayo iyan, iyong media iyan.’ Pero kapag sinilence iyong media, tayo din iyong hindi magbe-benefit dito,” she said during her weekly radio show, BISErbisyong LENI, on RMN-DZXL 558.

VP Leni denounced anew the harassment against Ressa, who was arrested Friday morning, this time over alleged violation of the Anti-Dummy Law. Ressa had just returned from a trip in San Francisco, California, and was served an arrest warrant at Terminal 1 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. She was released later that day after posting bail—her seventh time to do so over a string of charges against her and Rappler.

Robredo said the image of Friday’s arrest symbolizes the threat posed by the administration against all Filipino journalists. 

“Noong nakita ko iyong pictures, parang ang feeling ko, iyong pictures na lumabas, iyon iyong warning sa lahat na members ng media, na ‘Kapag gayahin niyo iyong ginagawa ng Rappler, ito din iyong mangyayari sa inyo,’” she said.

She noted that the hodgepodge of cases that have been thrown against Ressa and Rappler clearly shows that the administration is singling them out. She also noted the stark contrast between the treatment the veteran journalist is getting for speaking out against the government, and the favors being granted to politicians involved in—and even convicted for—graft and corruption charges.

“Hindi naman natin sinasabi na bigyan ng special treatment. Pero iyong sa atin lang, kung nagkasala, eh ‘di kasuhan para panagutin kung may pagkakasala, pero ito kasi, parang nakikita natin na sini-single-out,” she said.

“Alam natin na maraming mga malalaking tao na marami nang charges ng korapsyon—‘di ba si dating first lady Imelda Marcos nga, mayroong conviction—hindi naman nakukulong. Maraming charges ng korapsyon, imbes na file-an ng kaso o makulong ito, nakalabas, binibigyan pa ng posisyon sa pamahalaan. Tapos ito, parang, iyong harassment grabe,” she added. 

Otso Diretso senatorial candidate Chel Diokno also noted the pattern of harassment being posed against the administration’s critics, including Ressa, and the waste of government resources being poured into these efforts. 

The renowned human rights lawyer also underscored the critical role that journalists play in society, especially amid the widespread disinformation on social media.

“[K]ailangan nating lahat hindi ng fake news; kailangan nating malaman kung ano iyong katotohanan,” said Diokno. “Kapag nawala iyong katotohanan, siyempre we cannot make informed decisions.  Kaya napakahalaga ng ating media, dahil hindi naman natin puwedeng sabihin na free expression pero wala namang information. Kailangan nating malaman talaga kung ano ang sitwasyon, at doon tayo mag-a-act on.”

– 30 –