Literary titan F. Sionil Jose made his mark for criticizing injustices and his unrelenting search for truth for most of his 96 years, and the army of his readers admired him for that.
He does not deserve the insults and the venom for expressing an objective view on the Nobel Peace Prize of journalist Maria Ressa.
The basis of his assessment that Ressa was a product of western hype and that she did not deserve the lofty recognition is rooted in Jose’s lifelong journey as a writer and social observer.
The National Artist for Literature had said in one of his musings, “How I wish it were possible for my readers to remember not just the narratives or the ideas I have written down, but to consider as well my motives for writing, and for my readers now and in the future to understand them.”
For Jose, it doesn’t matter that those undeserving fools who engaged him in social media, for instance, excoriated him. What mattered was that he was able to give his views for readers to ponder on.
“My motives are rooted in man’s aspiration for justice and his enduring search for truth in a world full of lies and in the beauty of a world demeaned by ugliness,” Jose indicated.
He posed one statement that stung: “I haven’t read anything memorable by her,” referring to Nobel laureate Ressa.
Indeed, the circumstances which led to the prestigious award should be the same train of events that are standard in the anti-Duterte circle of whipping up adversities and blowing them up to global proportions.
The war on drugs, for instance, is under investigation by the International Criminal Court for matters that have been the problem of the police force even in previous governments.
These police issues were highlighted after President Rodrigo Duterte’s assumption in Malacañang when he indicated his determined pursuit to end the wave of crime in the country, the narcotics trade in particular.
The campaign resulted in deaths, which the police attributed to rival drug syndicates canceling each other out, as the environment turned heated. This was due to Mr. Duterte’s campaign of breaking the structure, including the coddlers in government who have nurtured the lucrative illegal trade.
Oppositionists spun it into extrajudicial killings attributed to state forces. Destabilizer Antonio Trillanes IV provided the icing with his manufactured 20,000 deaths in the hands of the police.
Similar instances were spun for Rappler and Ressa. Not one journalist has been jailed or maimed due to criticism of the Duterte administration.
In fact, just lately, the administration announced with pride the drastic reduction of deaths among media workers, which reached their peak during past regimes, earning for the country then the notoriety of being the most dangerous place for journalists.
What Ressa faced are cyber libel cases, which are not exceptional for a Filipino journalist, and a host of corporate suits involving the anti-dummy law and breach of the constitutional limit on foreign ownership of media concerns, which were filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“I have criticized Duterte but not on press freedom. The Philippine press is alive and well not because of Maria Ressa. No writer is in jail. There is no censorship. Duterte hasn’t closed a single newspaper or radio station. The closure of ABS-CBN was made by Congress, which did not renew the ABS-CBN franchise,” Jose noted in his page.
It’s hard to argue with the truth, and the peddlers of deception have to shamefully gang up on Jose because a respected author scored a direct hit on the ivory tower of the hypocrites by being brutally frank.
Hats off to the master wordsmith.