The outpouring of joy over the Peace Prize accorded to staunch Filipina investigative reporter Maria Ressa, CEO of the news site Rappler and the first Filipino to ever receive a Nobel Peace Prize continues.
She has now divided the Senate on which stance to take regarding the awarding of the Senate Medal of Excellence.
MANILA — The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Maria Ressa on Friday, 08 October 2021 along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov for their role in safeguarding “freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”.
While many Filipino netizens rejoiced her victory, Malacañan’s initial silence was simultaneously brought to everyone’s attention.
Even the Senate is left divided by her reception of this award.
The Senate created the Medal of Excellence on the 24th of August, adopting the Proposed Senate Resolution No. 781, in recognition of outstanding Filipinos “for their exemplary service, outstanding achievements, and invaluable contributions to nation-building”.
These achievements include the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the A. M. Turing Award, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, and finally, an Olympic medal—which was the most relevant at the time—would be eligible for the Senate’s awarding.
Olympic medalists Hidilyn Diaz, Carlo Paalam, Nesthy Petecio, and Eumir Marcial all officially received this honor on 06 September.
Although the Resolution clearly states that a Nobel Prize makes any Filipino eligible for the Senate Medal of Excellence, the divide on Ressa’s victory falls on an amendment made to the medal’s creation.
According to Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Ressa’s courage to stand up to the Duterte administration’s silencing of press freedom was awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. This entails an “automatic” granting of the Medal of Excellence.
Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, however, cited Senator Drilon’s own amendment, stating that the granting of the Senate Medal also requires a unanimous vote among members of the chamber. Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that Ressa’s awarding “will have difficulty” due to the unanimity clause.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said it places the Duterte administration “in a very awkward situation, considering how it has repeatedly attacked Rappler and filed all sorts of bogus cases against her [Ressa]”.
“We can take this up when we get back in November. [The conferment on Nobel winners] should have been automatic. However, there is a Drilon amendment that states it’s upon the unanimous vote of all members, so if nobody objects then it is automatic. That’s in the approved rules,” Zubiri said.
Breaking its silence
Meanwhile Malacañan has released its late statement on Ressa’s win, after three days of silence on the matter.
“It’s a victory for a Filipina and we’re very happy for that kasi wala naman pong utak talangka dito sa (because no one has a crab mentality here in) Malacañan,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a briefing.
“Of course it is true there are individuals who feel Maria Ressa still has to clear her name before the courts,” he added.
Regarding the government’s position on the message of Ressa’s win, Roque also stated, “It is not a slap on the government; it was made by private individuals in Norway. We respect their decision. There is no slap there because as everyone knows, no one has ever been censored in the Philippines. A journalist who claims a chilling effect should not be a journalist.” (RF/JuanManila)