On Awards

Recently, things got interesting. Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with a Russian, Dmitry Muratov, for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression. The award was a first for a Filipino and, normally, would be a big thing, and yet F. Sionil Jose, a writer who has been nominated for consideration of the Nobel committee but always passed over, believes she doesn’t deserve the award because he doesn’t believe that the press in the Philippines is not free, or is being censored, and it does not appear to be a personal attack against Ms. Ressa (unlike some of the attacks now made against him after the publication of his views).

To be honest, I don’t recall reading any of the works of Mr. Jose or Ms. Ressa, and, for some reason, I can’t stand listening to Ms. Ressa. Sorry, I never get to finish any news item on TV or cable with her speaking in it. I can read news articles about her but that’s about it. Let me just put that out there.

So, is this just sourgraping by Mr. Jose? Maybe. Maybe not. At least Mr. Jose was aware people might say he is, and explained that, to his mind, freedom of expression, and of the press, is not under attack in the Philippines unlike in the martial law years of Ferdinand Marcos. However, it may be recalled that Rappler has, time and again, been blacklisted by the Philippine government, and Ms. Ressa and Rappler charged and convicted of cyber libel. That conviction is now on appeal.

TV and radio broadcaster ABS-CBN was forced to close when its franchise was not renewed by Congress then peopled by friends and allies of the administration, and the National Telecommunications Commission refused to issue a provisional franchise despite having done so in other cases. It now lives and survives in cable and the Internet. So what? Well, it appears that the assault against Rappler and ABS-CBN began right after the publication of news items critical of the President and his administration. Some say the Philippines is under martial law lite: less brutish maybe but same effect.

It appears that it is in that context that the Nobel committee awarded Ms. Ressa the Peace Prize. In their estimation, Ms. Ressa has checked all the boxes to make one worthy of the Prize. Anyone can dispute this, of course. I myself disagreed with their decision to award one to Barack Obama when he had just began his presidency of the US in 2009 but, in the end, it is for them to give out regardless of how we may feel about it. Mr. Jose can argue against awarding the prize to Ms. Ressa until he turns blue but he cannot substitute his own wisdom for theirs. Unfortunately for him, it doesn’t work that way.

I mean, if it were so, then the Philippines would have won all the titles of Ms. Universe from all the protestations Filipinos raise whenever it loses. No, my friends, it just doesn’t work that way…


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