MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) began on Monday its preliminary investigation into a cyber libel complaint against executives and a columnist of news website Rappler.
Only respondent Jose Maria G. Hofileña, Rappler director/officer, submitted his counter-affidavit on the complaint filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng, and transmitted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
The other respondents—namely, Maria Ressa, editor-in-chief, director/officer; Reynaldo Santos, Jr, columnist; Manuel I. Ayala, director/officer; Nico Jose Nolledo, director/officer; Glenda M. Gloria, director/officer; James C. Bitanga, director/officer; Felicia Atienza, director/officer; and Dan Alber De Padua, director/officer—did not appear in the hearing.
Their lawyers said they will file their respective counter-affidavits after Keng reaffirms his complaint before members of the investigating panel of prosecutors.
Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edwin Dayog, and Assistant State Prosecutors Florencio Dela Cruz and Jeanette Dacpano set the next hearing on April 20, where Keng is expected to subscribe to his complaint, as committed by his lawyer, Ryan Cruz. The other respondents' submission of counter-affidavits will be set at a later date.
The complaint stemmed from an article published by Rappler, entitled “CJ USING SUVs OF CONTROVERSIAL BUSINESSMAN,” during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Keng had claimed he did not lend any vehicle to the chief magistrate.
“Unlike published materials on print, defamatory statements online, such as those contained in the libelous article written and published by subjects, is indubitably considered as a continuing crime until and unless the libelous article is actually removed or taken down. Otherwise, the same is a continuing violation of Section 4 (c) (4) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012,” read the complaint signed by NBI Director Dante Gierran.