Ressa lauds Baguio City for standing for democracy
The Philippine’s first Nobel Peace laureate and Rappler Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa, in her recent visit to Baguio, lauded the city for its contribution in standing up for democracy.
At the launching of her book “How to Stand Up to a Dictator: The Fight for Our Future” on March 6 at the University of the Cordilleras, Ressa said journalists, academe, civil society organizations and residents of Baguio have always been vocal in making government officials accountable for their actions.
She cited the role of Baguio-based community newspapers like the Baguio Chronicle and Northern Dispatch in joining Rappler and other civil society organizations in fact checking disinformation spread in social media through the Facts First PH movement.
She also thanked UC, which hosted her book launch, for continuously supporting her. She said in 2019, she began getting arrested every few weeks, where she had 10 arrest warrants in less than two years after being accused of fraud, tax evasion and receiving money from the Central Intelligence Agency and cyberlibel.
Some of the charges were dismissed but only the cyberlibel case prospered where she and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. were convicted by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 in 2020.
Last year, the Court of Appeals has denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Ressa and Santos.
“Ray Dean Salvosa and UC, at the time when Rappler, we were kryptonite, people were shunning us to a degree because no one wanted to be targeted. But UC gave me an honorary award,” Ressa said.
“This is Baguio you stand up. We have a lot of problems in our country, and you have problems here. But what it takes to solve it is for every person in the room standing up and creating a mesh and connecting the mesh and demanding better,” she said.
Welcoming Ressa during the event were UC Board of Trustees Ray Dean Salvosa, author Luchie Maranan of Baguio Writers’ Group, Mayor Benjamin Magalong’s Executive Assistant Samantha Hamada, Gabe Mercado, and J. Albert Gamboa, as they shared their thoughts how Ressa impacted and inspired the Filipinos to continue demanding for accountability from the government and onwards creating a safer space for freedom of expression.
National Artist for Film Kidlat Tahimik has sincerely uttered a prayer of blessing for Ressa during her book launch while 10-year-old Emma Louise Orendain thanked Ressa’s courage and likened her to author J.K. Rowling’s fictional character, Harry Potter, who stood up against the dark forces led by Voldemort.
Ressa held a book signing after the program, which was organized by Baguio Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Frank Cimatu and Chronicle’s account executive Mia Magdalena Fokno in partnership with UC, Fully Booked, and Rappler.
The book “How to Stand Up to a Dictator: The Fight for Our Future” was published in 2022 and is the 2021 Nobel Peace laureate’s third book. It is both an autobiography and a manifesto that highlights the journey of a democracy defender.
“So every person in this room, in your area of influence, that is the mesh, you spread your courage and it ripples through society,” Ressa said. – Ofelia C. Empian