The flimsy circumstances surrounding Ressa’s arrest have raised speculations that Duterte is desperate to accelerate his drive toward despotism. Indeed, libel – or some pretext of it – does seem a device too well-worn to use for the purpose.
But, having proved effective for them, not to mention being handy, libel has been long favored by people in power, people of wealth and influence, and people who like to keep up pretensions to a ruinable reputation. If it works for the lesser of them how could it not work for Duterte? Not only is he, after all, Chief Executive and Commander in Chief; judging by the vote he gets from Congress and the Supreme Court for his espousals, he has them co-opted. Anyway, I’m not sure about him being desperate. Impatient? Vicious? Mad even? Absolutely, but that’s all in the nature of his pathology.
Unable to accommodate a free and adversarial press in his autocratic mindset, he has held Rappler in particular contempt, in fact voicing his sentiment publicly and all too often, lest his enforcers fall out of alignment to his wishes. Sure enough, even before they were slapped with libel, Rappler and Ressa had already been taken to court – Rappler for a Securities offense, Ressa for tax evasion, both cases concocted, too, she says.