One of the most heated issues that happened over the weekend involved multi-awarded Filipino novelist F. Sionil Jose saying journalist Maria Ressa did not deserve the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize awarded to her. Mix that in with scathing comments left by netizens who refused to let his rants slide and youâ€™ve got yourself a proper fiasco. What exactly happened?
It starts with Maria Ressaâ€™s Nobel Peace Prize Award
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.#NobelPrize #NobelPeacePrize pic.twitter.com/KHeGG9YOTT
â€” The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 8, 2021
On Oct. 8, journalist Maria Ressa was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for 2021, the Philippinesâ€™ first. She shared the award with Dmitry Muratov â€œfor their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia.â€ Ressa, who is also the CEO and co-founder of Rappler, the online news site for investigative journalism, is the first Filipino who will join the ranks of other laureates in the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Barack Obama, and more.
#NobelPrize laureate Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines. In 2012, she co-founded Rappler, @rapplerdotcom, a digital media company for investigative journalism. pic.twitter.com/C8W8NBqY7T
â€” The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 8, 2021
However, this historical event earned mixed reactions from Filipinos. While many expressed their joy and congratulated Ressa, there are some who believe she is ill-deserving.
F. Sionil Jose pens personal opinion on Maria Ressa
Filipino writer F. Sionil Jose is part of the latter. He took to social media to air his grievances toward the journalist Nobel laureate. Jose, a Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Awardee in Journalism, cited a few points why he felt Ressa was undeserving. He stressed that contrary to her demand for freedom of expression in journalism, the Philippine press is actually â€œalive and well.â€
He pointed out three things: there are â€œno writers in jail, there is no censorship,â€ and that the ABS-CBN shutdown â€œis not press freedom but money, politics, power and its abuse by the Lopezes who owns the TV network.â€
The 96-year-old writer then went on to downplay the fact that journalists are killed in every administration, including the present one. â€œBut those killings cannot be laid at Duterteâ€™s door. Usually, they are made by minor politicians or officials attacked by journalists.â€
â€œThe real test for journalists was made during the Marcos dictatorship when he imposed censorship, closed all media and jailed journalists,â€ he added.
Who is F. Sionil Jose anyway?
And why is he so irked? Well, Francisco Sionil Jose is a veteran writer, a National Artist for Literature, and a five-time Palanca awardee. In school, you may have been required to read some of his works, which range from novels, short stories, plays, and essays. His most notable work is The Rosales Saga, a fictional five-novel series spanning centuries of Philippine history. Jose is considered the most widely-read Filipino author in the English language. His works have been translated into 28 languages.
In the same Facebook post, Jose also acknowledged that he â€œwas in the listing of possible Nobel literary prize winners as published in international media.â€ In fact, he has been for quite some time. In a 2013 article, he wrote about his decades-long desire to be a Nobel laureate. Jose shared that the award has always evaded him even though has been nominated and even prophesied to win. Year in, year out he waits for a call from Sweden every first week of October but â€œnone came,â€ he laments.
â€œThe truth is I have stopped dreaming of the Prize for sometime now,â€ Jose writes. â€œBy doing so I can attend to my chores without being anaesthetized by dreaming.â€
He gets flak from the internet
Many flooded Joseâ€™s comments section to drop their own opinion. â€œImagine being a National Artist for Literature but youâ€™re stuck with writing a Facebook rant because you didnâ€™t get a Nobel (again)â€¦ embarrassing,â€ one comment read.
Another comment went straight to the point and stated that the writer might be hinting that he is better than Ressa.
â€œSir, your post again proves that you are still one of the countryâ€™s greatest fiction writers,â€ said another.
Even Howie Severino couldnâ€™t resist
â€œMy opinion as a reader- Iâ€™ve read your books and Iâ€™ve read Mariaâ€™s books. Sheâ€™s a much better writer,â€ Severino starts. â€œYour books are hard to finish. Your dialogue is stilted and unrealistic. Even your columns contain little to no insight. But I like your bookstore.â€
F. Sionil Joseâ€™s own organization distanced itself from him
â€œOne cannot deny that press freedom and human rights have been under attack in the Philippines under the government of Rodrigo Duterte,â€ the post went on to oppose Joseâ€™s points. â€œABS-CBN has been denied a renewal of its broadcast franchise and forced to close down as a network by the House of Representatives whose leadership is controlled Mr. Duterte and his political coalition. As of 2020, 19 journalists have been killed under his watch, mostly by suspected state agents, according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.â€
But some people are defending him too
However, not everyone thinks the writerâ€™s post is a manifestation of bitterness. Some Filipinos respect Joseâ€™s opinions and even said that the Nobel Peace Prize committed a mistake before.
Even Severino wasnâ€™t safe from criticism. One netizen expressed their displeasure at Severinoâ€™s response saying that his comment was a â€œlow blow, unprincipled and unfairâ€ action for a journalist.
Despite all this, F. Sionil Jose â€œforgivesâ€ his critics
After seeing the traction and backlash his original rant made online, Jose took to Facebook yet again to address everyone. â€œTo all of you who reviled and wished me ill for questioning Maria Ressaâ€™s Nobel Prizeâ€”I forgive you,â€ his post began. â€œI ask you to look deeply into yourselves; you hate Duterte so much you cannot see any good in the man and you think I have sold out to him.â€
He also asked everyone to â€œquestion the facts.â€ â€œThe factsâ€ being what Ressa has done for the freedom and the Philippines and who is funding her.
As of writing, this new post has garnered 4.8k reactions, 936 comments, and 1.3k shares.
What do you think of F. Sionil Joseâ€™s Facebook posts?
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