Cyber libel case vs Rappler riddled with 'deficiencies': Ressa lawyer

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 14 2019 11:29 AM

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MANILA - The cyber libel case that led to the arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is riddled with "deficiencies" that her camp will challenge in a motion to quash, her lawyer said Thursday.

Ressa, whose news site has repeatedly clashed with President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested Wednesday in connection with a 2012 Rappler article that its subject, businessman Wildredo Keng, claimed was "defamatory."

The Cybercrime Prevention Act however was approved months after the article was published and could not be applied to the alleged libel, said Ressa's lawyer, JJ Disini.

The Department of Justice has argued that the law applies to the article because it was "republished" in 2014, he said.

The story, Disini said, was only updated in 2014 to correct punctuation marks.

He added that a libel case may only be filed within a year after the supposed crime was committed.

The libel case against Ressa, the article's writer and Rappler was lodged in 2017, he noted.

"Marami pong parang deficiencies iyung position po ng prosecution kaya plano po naming maghain ng motion to quash," Disini told radio DZMM.

(There are many apparent deficiencies in the position of the prosecution so we plan to file a motion to quash.)

Ressa's camp will also post a bail of P100,000 to P120,000 for her temporary freedom on Thursday, said Disini.

The article from which the case stemmed is about Keng's alleged ties to former Chief Justice Renato Corona. The report also claimed that the businessman had been under surveillance by National Security Council for alleged involvement in in human trafficking and drug smuggling.

Keng has "no pending record, case or investigation" for any crime, his lawyer Joseph Banguis told DZMM last year.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has also released a document clearing Keng of alleged links to the narcotics trade, Banguis said.

The libel case, he added, was not politically motivated, contrary to Ressa's statement that it was part of "a concerted effort to turn journalism into a crime."

Rappler is also facing a separate tax evasion case that could lead to its closure.