Ressa's libel accuser not connected to Duterte, says lawyer


Posted at Feb 14 2019 07:46 PM

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MANILA - Businessman Wilfredo Keng is not "in any way" connected to President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration, one of his legal counsels said Thursday following the arrest of Rappler chief Maria Ressa.

Ressa, whose news site has repeatedly clashed with Duterte, was arrested Wednesday evening in connection with a 2012 article about businessman Wilfredo Keng. The veteran journalist posted a bail of P100,000 for her temporary freedom.

Atty. Joseph Banguis said the cyber libel complaint against Ressa was not politically-motivated.

"We would like to take this opportunity to clear that particular issue. For us, this is misinformation. My client is not in any way connected with our President Duterte, the administration, government," Atty. Joseph Banguis told ANC.

"He’s a private individual, a businessman, he’s not involved with the government. Nobody directed him to file this complaint. And the decision to file this complaint is completely voluntary on the part of Mr. Keng. He didn’t want to file the complaint, it’s just that Rappler wasn’t taking down their article even after repeated requests."

The Department of Justice had indicted Rappler, Ressa, and former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr. over a 2012 article which claimed that Keng's luxury vehicle was used by former Chief Justice Renato Corona during the impeachment proceedings against him.

Banguis said his client only found out about the article in 2016 and filed a complaint in 2017 after Rappler refused to take down the story after the businessman communicated and presented government documents allegedly proving his innocence.

"Now the reason he was not able to file the complaint immediately upon discovery is because when he found out about the article he didn’t want to make a big deal out of this, he didn’t want to make it a national issue," he said.

"He actually communicated with Rappler and asked Rappler to take down the article. He even produced his NBI clearance, PDEA clearance to show that he has not been involved in any criminal investigation. He actually doesn’t have any pending criminal cases. His record is clean."

Keng, in an earlier, statement said Rappler "through formal and informal channels, repeatedly promised me that they will take down the subject article, but never did."

The report, he added, "destroyed my reputation and endangered my life."

Ressa, however, said that Rappler would "never take a story down."

"When we verified the story, especially when there is pressure from somebody with a vested interest, we stick with the story. We would never take a story down that we posted, verified, and stand by," she told ANC.

"I am not the editor of this story, which the DOJ decision mistakenly made. Even then you must ask the DOJ why have I been arrested when I am an officer of the company. We listened to the lawyer of Mr. Keng, it’s clear he also had some of his information second and third hand. I suggest they go back to it, certainly, our senior editors have never been contacted by them."

Banguis, meanwhile, said his client intends to "pursue the case to the very end."