“BASELESS and absurd” was how Communications Secretary Martin Andanar described the allegations of Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa in her latest opinion piece which was carried by the Los Angeles Times.
Ressa’s September 25 opinion piece titled, “Americans, look to the Philippines to see a dystopian future created by social media,” narrated how online news media Rappler “struggled to hold the Philippine government to account and end impunity” for its bloody war on illegal drugs.
In her column, Ressa wrote that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte lodged 11 cases against their news site for alleged foreign ownership, securities fraud, tax evasion and other “ludicrous charges.”
In her opinion piece, Ressa also noted that according to Rappler’s 2016 data, almost anyone in Facebook who criticized Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs became a target of harassment.
She said human rights activists, journalists and news organizations were painted as “corrupt at best.”
Andanar however disputed Ressa’s accusations on media harassment, saying Duterte even signed Republic Act 11458 which protects broadcast and online media from revealing confidential sources.
“The President also recently signed Republic Act 11458, which expands the coverage of exemptions from revealing the source of published news or information obtained in confidence,” Andanar said in a statement on Saturday.
Andanar added that Ressa’s claim that there were 27,000 drug-related killings in the Philippines was baseless, saying that there were only about 5,000 deaths based on reports from Philippine law enforcement agencies.
“Again, Ms. Ressa continues to cite the baseless number of 27,000 drug addicts that were allegedly killed, which is actually the total homicide cases including cases not related to the drug war,” he said.
“Sticking to the hard facts that came from our law enforcement agencies, the number of unfortunate deaths from legitimate police operations is only 5,526,” he said.