Senate of the Philippines

Opposition senators: Don’t ignore Ressa’s Nobel, give her top Senate honor

Mara Cepeda
Opposition senators: Don’t ignore Ressa’s Nobel, give her top Senate honor

NOBEL WINNER. Rappler CEO and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, during a media interview in Taguig City on October 9, 2021.

LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

'To purposely ignore this achievement would be to wash away an amazing victory of a Filipina from our history books,' says opposition senator Risa Hontiveros

The four opposition senators in the Philippine Senate are urging their administration-allied colleagues to give Rappler CEO Maria Ressa the honor she deserves as the Philippines’ first Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Senator Risa Hontiveros led Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon, as well as senators Kiko Pangilinan and Leila de Lima, in filing Proposed Senate Resolution (PRS) No. 927. The resolution urged the rest of the chamber to confer upon Ressa the Senate Medal of Excellence for being a Nobel laureate. 

“Maria Ressa is the first ever Filipino Nobel Peace Prize winner. To purposely ignore this achievement would be to wash away an amazing victory of a Filipina from our history books,” Hontiveros said on Tuesday, October 12.

“This is a chance for the Senate as an institution to show that it remains true to its values of free speech and genuine democracy,” she added. 

The minority senators also hailed Ressa in PSR 927 for her courage in standing up to President Rodrigo Duterte – whose persistent attacks on Rappler and the Philippine media have turned Ressa into an international icon for press freedom and democracy. 

“The role of journalists in preventing the erosion of democracy through a ‘thousand cuts’ is more essential than ever and the complexity of their battle for truth and facts makes the Nobel award of the embattled Rappler CEO Maria Ressa a much needed triumph and a beacon of hope to the tattered freedom of expression in the country,” said the opposition senators. 

The minority bloc’s resolution comes amid the reluctance of other senators to give the Senate Medal of Excellence to Ressa, who won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize along with Russia journalist Dmitry Muratov.

Duterte is allied with a majority of senators, several of whom are either seeking reelection or running for higher office in 2022. 

It took Malacañang four days to congratulate Ressa on her historic win. But in doing so, Duterte’s mouthpiece Harry Roque denied they have been attacking Filipino journalists. Members of the media have themselves debunked this lie.

The veteran lawmaker Drilon earlier said a specific provision that he had introduced himself in the resolution creating the Senate Medal of Excellence makes the grant of the award “automatic” for any Filipino who wins the Nobel Prize.

But Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri disagrees, saying the chamber had to first unanimously agree to grant the award to Ressa before she can receive the honor from the Senate. 

Honoring Ressa ‘the right thing to do’

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto conceded that some of their colleagues are likely to have reservations about giving the medal to Ressa, but he believes she deserves to get the recognition from the chamber. 

Recto argued Ressa satisfies all the conditions to get the Senate Medal of Excellence.

“But most important, it is the right thing to do. We cannot ignore an accolade which has been met with universal praise. Never has a Nobel winner been snubbed in his or her own homeland,” said Recto. 

He then called on the rest of the Senate to demonstrate “political sportsmanship.”

Senators are expected to tackle the issues surrounding the conferment of the Senate Medal of Excellence once they reopen session in early November. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.