by HFC Staff and Photos by Tim Llena
Nobel Peace Prize laureate and veteran Philippine journalist Maria Ressa met with Hawaii supporters on June 27 at the State Capitol where she was honored by Filipino organizations and Hawaii State legislators for her work defending press freedom.
Ressa is a veteran journalist who was included in Time’s Person of the Year 2018 issue. In 2011, she founded Rappler, an online news organization now known for its critical coverage of former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s policies, including a drug war that has claimed thousands of lives.
Ressa is now the target of several legal cases filed by the Philippine government. Convicted of libel in 2019, she remains free on bail while her case is on appeal and has been granted court approval to travel to Hawai’i to speak at the East West Center’s International Media Conference on June 28.
At the Capitol, Hawaii senators, Filipino organizations and community leaders showed their support for Ressa.
“She’s not afraid, which is really why she really should be commended beyond words,” said co-founder of the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Center for Philippines Studies Belinda Aquino in an interview with Hawaii News Now (HNN) journalist Annalisa Burgos.
Maui-based Filipino community leader Kit Furukawa told HNN: “Many support what she is fighting against. And that’s a little hard to reconcile, you know, inside of me. But I feel like I’m on the right side of history for this one.”
“We honor her as a symbol of press freedom. She is what fighting for your ideals is all about. We honor her on behalf of many of Hawai’i’s student journalists in our schools who are also aspiring to give a voice to their communities,” State Senator Bennette Misalucha said.
Ressa thanked the Filipino community for its warm welcome: “Thank you for taking the time to come here today. We live in an attention economy and where you spend your time is where you choose to give your life meaning. So, your time today is very precious to me. It is so wonderful to see Filipinos here.”
The reception was spearheaded by Filipino Association of University Women Hawaii and co-sponsored by the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Hawaii. Consul General Emil Fernandez was also in attendance.