7 senators want Senate Medal of Excellence for Nobel laureate Maria Ressa

Despite possible dissent from some of their colleagues, seven senators want a Senate Medal of Excellence conferred on journalist Maria Ressa for being the first Filipino Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

In separate statements, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto; Majority Leader Juan Miguel; Zubiri, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon; Senators Risa Hontiveros, Leila de Lima, Francis Pangilinan, and Richard Gordon asserted that Ressa deserved the recognition.

“I personally believe that any Filipino who is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize should get the Senate Medal of Excellence. And Maria Ressa’s win is especially remarkable and worth celebrating for being the first Nobel Peace Prize awarded to a Filipino,” Zubiri said in a statement.

“But the Senate Medal of Excellence is an institutional recognition, so the whole Senate body has to be in agreement, as worded in the approved resolution creating the award,” he noted.

Under Senate Resolution No. 110, the Senate Medal of Excellence can be conferred to outstanding Filipinos as recognition of their exemplary service, outstanding achievements, and invaluable contributions to nation-building.

Recipients of the Senate medal include “Filipinos who are awarded the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, the A.M. Turing Award, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, or an Olympic Medal.”

However, the resolution states that the Senate Medal of Excellence should be awarded “upon the unanimous vote of the members of the chambers.”

Zubiri suggested amending the Senate resolution and exempt winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, Turing Awards, Magsaysay Awards, as well as Olympic Medalists from the requirement of the unanimous vote.

“[T]o be sure, this will be taken up immediately when we resume session in November. We will have to clarify when the clause for a unanimous vote does and does not apply, and if need be, we will introduce the proper amendments to avoid any further confusion in the future,” he said.

Duty to uplift, acknowledge

While the issue is pending until the Senate resumes session on November 8, several senators filed resolutions for the conferment of the Senate Medal of Excellence on Ressa.

The four-man minority block in the Senate filed Senate Resolution 927, acknowledging Ressa’s role in highlighting the importance of journalism in a democratic country.

“The role of journalists in preventing the erosion of democracy through a ‘thousand cuts’ is more essential than ever and the complexity of their battle for truth and facts makes the Nobel award of the embattled Rappler CEO Maria Ressa as much needed triumph and a beacon of hope to the tattered freedom of expression in the country,” the minority bloc wrote in their resolution.

In a statement, Hontiveros, who led the filing of SR 927, said conferring the Senate Medal of Excellence is “mandatory and procedural” and it is not up for vote or debate.

“Whatever side you look at it from, Maria Ressa’s feat is important for our country and all freedom-loving nations. We have a duty at the Senate to uplift and acknowledge our fellow Filipinos when we make our mark in the world,” she said.

She added that ignoring Ressa’s accomplishment “would also be damaging to women’s important role in Philippine history.”

“This is a chance for the Senate as an institution to show that it remains true to its values of free speech and genuine democracy,” she added.

Apart from the minority bloc’s resolution, Gordon also filed Senate Resolution 925, recognizing Ressa for her historic feat as the first Filipino Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

“The international recognition accorded to Maria Angelita Ressa serves both as an inspiration to journalists and a beacon of hope to ordinary citizens, that amidst the floods of misinformation and a conscious effort to mislead, the truth will always emerge by the hands of bold and undaunted members of the society,” he said.

Recto, meanwhile, said Ressa’s Nobel Prize “satisfies” all the conditions set before conferring the Senate Medal of Excellence.

“But most important, it is the right thing to do. We cannot ignore an accolade that has been met with universal praise. Never has a Nobel winner been snubbed in his or her own homeland,” Recto said.

“Mga beauty contest placers, may pinapasa na resolution of commendation. Manalo sa boxing, may resolution of commendation. Tapos itong Nobel prize, dededmahin natin?” he pointed out.

(We have been passing resolutions of commendation for beauty contest placers, boxing winners, yet we will ignore a Nobel prize winner?)

Recto said he expected his colleagues to “voice out reservations” against awarding the Senate medal but when the voting time comes, he assumes that “every one of us will demonstrate political sportsmanship.”

He then emphasized that being examined by a critical press is in the job description of a public official.

“May kasabihan na (There’s ‘a saying that) a politician who complains against the press is like a ship captain who complains about the sea’. You can be pilloried and praised in equal doses. But the worst fate is to be ignored,” he said.

“As a Filipino, I am proud that a compatriot has deservingly won the Nobel for work that is essential for democracy to flourish,” he ended.

On Monday, Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa disputed the award given to Ressa.

He said the awarding body was wrong if the Nobel Peace Prize was given to Ressa on the basis of press freedom.

Dela Rosa also said he did not “believe” that Ressa was deserving of a Senate Medal of Excellence following the Nobel Peace Prize award given to her.

Ressa, as well as Rappler, have yet to issue a comment on Dela Rosa’s remarks. — DVM, GMA News

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