Malacañang on Monday said Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize win was a victory for a Filipino it was glad to see, and claimed it was proof of thriving press freedom in the Philippines.

Ressa was awarded a Nobel for “​​efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

Ressa, who has been a target of the Duterte administration, is the first Filipino individual to win the prize.

“It’s a victory for a Filipina and we’re very happy for that kasi wala naman pong utak talangka dito sa Malacañang. But of course, it is true that there are individuals who feel that Maria Ressa still has to clear her name before our courts as in fact she’s a convicted felon for libel, cyber libel in the Philippines and she faces other cases in the Philippines – that’s for the courts to decide,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said.

Roque said that Ressa’s award was not a slap on the Duterte government because “no one has ever been censored in the Philippines.”

“You cannot blame Congress for not renewing the franchise of ABS-CBN because that is one of their powers. That is not an order emanating from the executive nor is it a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive,” he added.

Duterte’s mouthpiece also sided with National Artist F. Sionil Jose, who said Ressa was not the reason press freedom in the Philippines was alive and well.

In a Facebook post on Oct. 9, Jose said: “No writer is in jail. There is no censorship. Duterte hasn’t closed a single newspaper or radio station.”

“Sure, journalists have been killed in the Duterte regime but just as it were in the past administrations; but those killings cannot be laid at Duterte’s door. Usually, they are made by minor politicians or officials attacked by journalists. The real test for journalists was made during the Marcos dictatorship when he imposed censorship, closed all media and jailed journalists,” Jose added.

Earlier this year, Duterte was named among 37 world leaders labeled as press freedom predators by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

The Philippines ranked 138th among 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. John Ezekiel J. Hirro