Amal Clooney to represent Rappler’s Maria Ressa

Marje Pelayo   •   July 9, 2019   •   1071

(L-R) Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney

MANILA, Philippines – International human rights lawyers Amal Clooney and Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC will join Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s legal team.

In a statement, Clooney expressed confidence in Maria Ressa as a ‘courageous’ journalist “who is being persecuted for reporting the news and standing up to human rights abuses.”

Ressa is currently facing several criminal cases including tax evasion and cyberlibel.

Together with her team, Clooney promised to protect the rights of journalists in the country with their handling of Ressa’s charges.

“We will pursue all available legal remedies to vindicate her rights and defend press freedom and the rule of law in the Philippines,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ressa said she is ‘delighted’ by Clooney and her team’s willingness to help in her case.

“I have been targeted and attacked simply for being an independent journalist,” Ressa said in a statement.

“I am delighted that Amal Clooney and her team will be representing me at the international level to challenge the violations of my rights and those of the media organization I represent,” the embattled journalist added.

Clooney and Gallagher, both specializing in international law and human rights, are members of the Doughty Street Chambers law firm. – with details from Mai Bermudez

Malacanang reminds critics: Cyberlibel Act passed under Aquino Administration

Marje Pelayo   •   June 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines –  Malacañang defends President Rodrigo Duterte against critics alleging the Chief Executive of curtailing press freedom with the conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the President has never charged a journalist in court and that the existing Cyberlibel Act that convicted Maria Ressa was enacted not under his term but under the term of former President Benigno Aquino III. 

“Hindi po administrasyon ni President Rodrigo Duterte ang nagsulong ng Cyberlibel Act (kundi ang) administrasyon po ni President Noynoy Aquino [It was not the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte that pushed for the Cyberlibel Act but it was the administration of President Noynoy Aquino],” Roque noted.

Despite criticisms, the Palace said it is acknowledging the court’s decision on Ressa’s case and so it urges the public to do the same. 

Afterall, Roque said, Ressa and her co-accused, former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr., may still appeal the case in the higher courts.

READ: Court convicts Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, ex-researcher writer for cyberlibel

Ressa and Santos were allowed to post bail for the case and were given 15 days to appeal the verdict.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the court ruling calling the arraignment a ‘dark day’ not only for the independent media in the Philippines but to all Filipino people.

This is a dark day not only for independent Philippine media but for all Filipinos,” the group said.

“The verdict basically kills freedom of speech and of the press,” it added.

But the group of journalists said the verdict will never be a reason for them to stop their fight for press freedom.

“But we will not be cowed. We will continue to stand our ground against all attempts to suppress our freedoms,” the NUJP said. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Court convicts Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, ex-researcher writer for cyberlibel

Marje Pelayo   •   June 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46 on Monday (June 15) convicted Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and a former researcher-writer of the news agency, Reynaldo Santos Jr. for cyberlibel in a case filed by a private individual some eight years ago.

The issue stemmed from an article written on May 29, 2012 which alleged a businessman of murder and drug trafficking which the news agency cited from an intelligence report of an unspecified agency. 

The article, written by Santos, was published about four months before the country’s Cybercrime Law was enacted in September of the same year.

It was updated for a “typographical error” in 2014 wherein the mis-spelled word ‘evation’ was rectified to ‘evasion,’ which the prosecutor claimed as republication.

“It does not matter kung correction. Kasi nga sabi ng juris prudence kahit hindi nagbago, kahit wala kang binago it still constitute as republication. It’s a new publication dahil ini-update mo (It doesn’t matter if its a correction because the jurisprudence said that even if there was no revision in the article, it still constitutes as republication. It’s a new publication because you updated it),” explained Atty. Ryan John Cruz, the complainant Wilfredo Keng’s legal counsel.

Specifically, the article claimed that Keng had lent expensive vehicles to former Chief Justice Renato Corona who was then facing impeachment.

According to Cruz, the portion of the article that his client was complaining about was the part where it cited an intelligence report linking Keng to illegal activities. Cruz said there was no other way to clear his client’s name but to file a case in court.

“The allegation was that the private complainant in this case was involved in illegal drugs, in human trafficking, and also murder. These are heinous crimes that were maliciously [thrown] to them.” Cruz argued.

“Dapat maging lesson ito na maging maingat tayo sa pagpo-post sa paga-akusa lalo na lalo na kapag ang maaapektuhan ay isang pribadong indibidual, (This case should serve as lesson and a reminder to everyone to be cautious in posting and accusing others especially if it affects a private citizen),” added one of Keng’s lawyers Atty. Melissa Andaya.

Ressa, who had denied any wrong doing, was allowed to post bail. 

“This is a blow to us. But it’s also not unexpected considering that we are going to stand up against any kind of attacks against press freedom,” the embattled journalist said.

“It’s very sad. For someone who’s doing his job, to be here I think it could be not just me but other people who are doing his or her job properly could be in the same situation that I am in right now,” added her co-accused Reynaldo Santos Jr.

Rappler’s lawyer Atty. Theodore Te said they have 15 days to study the verdict and decide to file an appeal against the court ruling with the Court of Appeals or even with the Supreme Court.

The Manila RTC sentenced Ressa and Santos to jail for six months and one day up to 6 years and were asked to pay the complainant a total of ₱400,000 for moral and exemplary damages. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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MMDA Spokesperson Celine Pialago sues 3 Facebook page administrators for cyberlibel

FREEMA Gloria   •   October 9, 2019

MMDA Spokesperson Asec. Celine Pialago

MMDA Spokesperson Asec. Celine Pialago has filed a complaint before the PNP Anti-cybercrime group against the administrators of three Facebook pages who allegedly have been disseminating false information about her.

In a post of Pinoy laugh page, it stated that Pialago has allegedly advised commuters to better stay at home if they were having difficulty commuting to work.

Pialago vehemently denied saying such a statement.

Aside from the said administrators, the MMDA spokesperson is also planning to hold the twitter page users responsible for spreading fake news about her.

The PNP Anti-cybercrime group is now looking into the identities of the said Facebook page administrators. —FSG (with details from April Cenedoza)

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