The Office of the Solicitor General has objected to the bid of Nobel laureate and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa to personally receive the Nobel Peace Prize award in Oslo, Norway next month.
In opposing Ressa’s bid, the OSG pleaded the Court of Appeals’ Eight Division to deny the Rappler executive’s appeal to be allowed to travel to Norway, saying her right to travel is not absolute and that she has failed to present convincing arguments or evidence to prove the necessity of her travel to Oslo.
The chief state lawyer also argued that Ressa was merely invited to attend the awarding ceremony on December 10, which she could do by videoconferencing.
December 10 is the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel who founded the awards in his last will in 1895.
“Plaintiff-appellee is aware that the Nobel Peace Prize is a prestigious award given to individuals who have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind. However, it is respectfully submitted that accused-appellant Ressa has failed to present any compelling argument and or evidence proving the necessity and urgency of her travel to Oslo, Norway,” the OSG said.
It said there are alternative means by which Ressa can participate in the event, such as through videoconferencing and other technological applications.
“Second, there is no showing that accused-appellant Ressa’s in person attendance thereto is necessary or her non-attendance in person to the events in Oslo, Norway would cause irreparable damage or prejudice to her,” the OSG said.
In her motion to travel filed last November 3, Ressa stressed the need for her to attend the awarding ceremony in person as she cited the invitation letter showing that the only recent incident wherein a Nobel laureate did not receive the award in person was in 2010 when the Chinese government did not allow activist Liu Xiaobo to leave his detention to travel to the ceremony.
Ressa said Liu’s absence in the ceremony quickly became a globally recognized symbol of the oppressive nature of the Chinese communist regime.
However, the OSG stressed that her mentioning of Liu coupled with the “insinuation” associating the government’s opposition to her travel with an authoritarian regime has no basis.
“Such an assertion coupled with an insinuation which associates the refusal to permit travel with an authoritarian government and a symbol of an oppressive regime is outright baseless and malicious.”
“To be sure, there are valid restrictions on accused-appellant Ressa’s right to travel as a necessary consequence of her conviction,” the OSG explained, referring to her conviction by the Manila regional trial court last year on the cyber libel case filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng.
Ressa and her co-accused, Reynaldo Santos had appealed the guilty verdict.
The OSG also said Ressa is a “flight risk” and that her failure to prove the necessity of her travel to Oslo is the more reason for the CA to proceed with caution in granting her request.
The appellate court earlier allowed Ressa to travel to the US to attend a program at Harvard University and visit her parents there.
The CA Eight Division which is handling Ressa’s appeal on her cyber libel conviction allowed her to travel to Boston from October 31 to December 2 to attend the 30-day program at the Center for Public Leadership and Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, saying she is not a flight risk and was able to prove her travel is necessary.
In between, she will be visiting her parents in Florida during Thanksgiving on November 25.
The appellate court required Ressa to post a P500, 000 bond and provide an updated itinerary.
In December last year, the same division blocked Ressa’s request to visit her ailing mother saying she failed to prove the necessity of her travel.
Instead of flying home from Boston on December 2, Ressa sought permission from the CA to be allowed to proceed to Oslo on December 8 to attend and receive her Nobel Peace Prize award.
She said she will return to Manila on December 13.