It was a sad day last June 15, 2020, as we witnessed a legal setback that focused on the perils of being practitioners, believers, and defenders of a free press. A court found Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos, Jr. guilty of cyber-libel. Pending an appeal, they remain free on post-conviction bail.
Indeed, these are the worst of times – the rise of populist and authoritarian leaders, the ever-constricting space for democratic discussions and debate, and a global pandemic with no end in sight.
We cannot isolate this latest debacle from the systematic and widespread attacks by this administration on our fundamental rights and freedoms.
Absent martial law, it has used cunningly the law as a weapon to topple down its perceived enemies, remove them from office, detain and hold a senator incommunicado, shut down a media giant and now, convict journalists of cyber-libel.
It has resorted to name-calling, red-tagging, public shaming, and the like to attack human rights defenders, social activists, and all those critical of government policy. It has divided our nation between those who assert a free and democratic society and those who wish a throwback to the dark days of dictatorship.
Are we drifting to the age of kings who demand absolute loyalty and blind obedience from its subjects? Are we prepared to surrender our free speech, free press, right to organize, and right to life, for another round of tyranny?
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