Philippine Center of International PEN and F. Sionil Jose (File photo)

The Philippine Center of International PEN (Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) distanced itself from the statement of its founder F. Sionil Jose who criticized Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize win.

“The Board of Directors of the Philippine PEN wishes to clarify that the statement of Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Journalism F. Sionil Jose is a personal opinion and should be respected as such,” the writers’ group said in a statement last Oct. 10.

In a Facebook post, Jose said Ressa did not deserve her Nobel win and that the Philippine press was “alive and well” not because of her.

He maintained that the attacks on press freedom and journalists in the country could not be attributed to the Duterte administration.

“No writer is in jail. There is no censorship. Duterte hasn’t closed a single newspaper or radio station,” Jose wrote last Oct. 9.

“Sure, journalists have been killed in the Duterte regime just as it was in past administrations. But those killings cannot be laid at Duterte’s doors. Usually, they are made by minor politicians or officials attacked by journalists,” he said.

The Philippine PEN also disavowed Jose’s claims on the shutdown of ABS-CBN by the House of Representatives “whose leadership is controlled [by] Mr. Duterte and his political coalition.”

It said 19 journalists have been killed under Duterte’s watch as of 2020, according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, while Facebook shut down several fake accounts linked to the military and the police.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders also put President Duterte in its “press freedom predators” gallery, which included 37 other leaders, in July, it said.

“PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong, as well as throughout the world wherever this is possible,” the group said.

Ressa won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize “​​for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

In 2020, the Philippine PEN decried Ressa’s cyberlibel conviction as a “severe blow to press freedom.”

Jose, once touted as the country’s best bet for the Nobel literature prize, also caused a stir online after he wrote a lengthy Facebook post back in May 2020 supporting the decision of Congress to deny ABS-CBN a franchise. Alexandra L. Mangasar


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