Duterte threatens to expose journalist Ressa as a 'fraud'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 8) — President Rodrigo Duterte issued another threat against journalist Maria Ressa, who has long earned the ire of the current administration.

In a speech aired on Wednesday, Duterte said his Cabinet secretaries are being accused of corruption while they are busy with their duties in the COVID-19 fight.

"General Galvez, General Lorenzana, General Año, tapos na, they have served their country and they’re still serving the country. Why would they destroy their name? Magkano ba kickback mo? May kickback ba na 50 million? Magsabi ka na may 200 million na kickback, ewan ko, pero huwag kayong maniwala," he said.

[Translation: Why would the Carlito Galvez, Delfin Lorenzana, Eduardo Año destroy their names? How much is your kickback for saying that? Are you receiving 50 million or 200 million? Do not believe these allegations.]

He then warned Ressa, the chief executive officer of online news website Rappler, that he is gathering evidence to prove that the award-winning journalist is a "fraud."

"I have some folders in me given all throughout the years. You will have a dose of your own medicine one of these days... Si Ressa is a fraud, maniwala kayo. Give us time. Too early for you to enjoy ‘yung mga award-award mo," he said. "We are just compiling at this stage. And someday in bold letters, we will show your incongruity."

[Translation: I have some folders in me given all throughout the years. You will have a dose of your own medicine one of these days... Believe me, Ressa is a fraud, give us time to prove that. It's too early for you to enjoy your awards.]

Ressa appeared unperturbed by Duterte's threat.

"Was he referring to me? Maybe the President is just seeing too much fraud from where he sits," she told CNN Philippines when asked for a comment.

The embattled Rappler CEO has earlier decried what she said was the government’s abuse of power and moves to muzzle independent media, with at least 11 complaints and cases filed against her and her news outfit.

In June, she was convicted of cyberlibel stemming from a 2012 Rappler investigative article, which reported on a businessman's alleged connection to illegal activities. The article was published two years before the cyberlibel law came into effect in the Philippines, but it was updated two years later to correct a misspelled word. The Department of Justice, which brought the libel charges to court, said that by updating the story, Rappler effectively republished it online.

Opposition groups, human rights advocates and netizens in the country and abroad slammed the decision in the high-profile case, saying it was a blow to press freedom in the Philippines.