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

Marje Pelayo   •   June 15, 2020   •   276

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)

Amal Clooney to represent Rappler’s Maria Ressa

Marje Pelayo   •   July 9, 2019

(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

Manila Court resets Rappler CEO Ressa’s arraignment on cyberlibel rap

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2019

Rappler CEO, Maria Ressa

MANILA, Philippines — The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 on Friday deferred the arraignment of news site Rappler’s Chief Executive Officer, Maria Ressa, on her cyberlibel case until a motion they have filed to quash the case has been resolved.

The court has ordered the Department of Justice to comment within 15 days on Ressa’s motion, which questions the charge sheet against the accused and urges the court to dismiss the case.

The court moved the arraignment to April 12.

Ressa personally attended the hearing on Friday morning with her legal team, led by former Supreme Court Spokesperson Atty. Theodore Te and Atty. Chel Diokno.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed by businessman, Wilfredo Keng over a Rappler article published in 2012, which reported about Keng’s alleged involvement in illegal drugs and human trafficking.

Ressa’s camp argued that the story was published around four months before the landmark Cybercrime Law was enacted. But the prosecution panel insisted that Rappler republished the article on February 2014 when the law had already taken effect.

Ressa’s lawyers then pointed out that a Supreme Court Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the Cybercrime Prevention Act was in effect when the said article was republished.

Diokno explained that the law took effect in September 2012 but the SC restrained its implementation until April 2014 after some groups challenged the constitutionality of the measure.

Te also stressed that there is no existing rule on multiple publication in the country in relation with the Cybercrime law.

Ressa, meanwhile, said that the cyber libel case against her, which was among the ten cases and six warrants of arrest she faced in a year, was just part of legal acrobatics. – Robie de Guzman (with reports from Mai Bermudez)

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