Senators to Duterte: PH better served by ‘free, critical press’

MANILA, Philippines – Minority senators on Friday, March 31, took to task President Rodrigo Duterte for his scathing attack on Philippine media organizations for alleged "unfair" reporting on his presidency.

The senators issued separate statements a day after the President, in a public address in Malacañang, hurled a string of expletives at the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN, as he accused their "rich" owners of publishing inaccurate news about him. (READ: Duterte tells 'rude' media: Beware of 'karma')

“Our individual freedoms and our democracy are better served by a free and critical press. It is part of our democracy for presidents to be at the receiving end of a critical press. Many presidents before have had their share of squaring off with the press,” Senator Francis Pangilinan said in a statement.

Pangilinan, president of the once-ruling Liberal Party, reminded Duterte that previous presidents all had their fair share of “squaring off” with the press, as their position necessarily placed them under close media scrutiny.

From her detention cell in Camp Crame, detained Senator Leila de Lima, another LP member, asked, "Why blame the media when there is much of Duterte's behavior and that of his circle of sycophants that warrant scrutiny and even censure?"

Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the media to remain steadfast in exercising their right to free expression amid the “political strategy” of the Duterte administration to "silence its critics."

"Amid these trying times, I urge my friends in the media to continue to exercise their journalistic rights," she said.

‘Double standard’

Referring to Duterte’s latest expletive-filled rant against the media, the European Union (EU), and the Catholic church, Hontiveros said, “Masquerading as ‘authentic politics,’ the government has embraced profanity, misogyny, and the lack of overall decency as political strategies to attack and silence its critics.”

She also said the administration’s practice of such kind of politics was guided by a "double standard."

"The President can rant and curse at the EU but can't do the same to China, which has not only fortified its presence in the West Philippine Sea but is also now present at Benham Rise….[He] can lambast several media outfits as controlled by oligarchs but is sheepish towards the Marcoses, who during Martial Law created their own oligarchy," she said.

Hontiveros noted that Duterte is tough on poor drug dependents “but can't muster the same tough stance against big-time drug lords like Peter Lim.”

“President Duterte's profanity, sexist rhetoric, and double standards should not be mistaken for authenticity. We should also not confuse strong leadership and political will with inane rants sprinkled with cuss words and machismo," she said.

"When the President's language degrades and objectifies women, is a virtual threat to the freedom of the press and severely undermines our foreign policy framework, it becomes unacceptable. It must not be tolerated. It must be confronted and resisted,” the senator added. – Rappler.dom