Court denies Rappler, Ressa plea to junk cyberlibel raps

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 15 2019 10:22 AM | Updated as of Apr 15 2019 10:40 AM

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MANILA - A Manila court has denied an appeal by news site Rappler, its chief Maria Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos, Jr. to dismiss the cyberlibel case filed against them by businessman Wilfredo Keng.

In a 9-page order dated April 12, Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa denied the trio’s motion to quash for “lack of merit.”

WHAT HAPPENED

The cyberlibel case stems from a complaint filed by Keng over a May 2012 article alleging he allowed former Chief Justice Renato Corona to use his luxury vehicle. The article also quoted an intelligence report alleging Keng’s involvement in human trafficking and drug smuggling. 

But the Department of Justice decided to indict Rappler, Ressa and Santos citing the multiple publication rule. Rappler’s 2012 article was supposedly republished on February 2014, making it fall under the cyberlibel law.

Rappler and Ressa contested this finding, arguing in its motion to quash that the law did not take effect until April 2014 when the SC decision upholding the law’s validity became final and the temporary restraining order (TRO) was lifted.

MANILA COURT RULING

But the court said the TRO merely suspended the “implementation and enforcement of RA 10175, so that crimes committed during the said period cannot be prosecuted” but it did not suspend its effectivity.

“So while crimes committed during the said period cannot be prosecuted during the effectivity of the TRO, they may be prosecuted after the lifting of the same just like what is done in this case,” the order said. 

The court also rejected Rappler’s invocation of the supposed misapplication of the multiple publication rule since it is outside the allegations in the information or criminal charge. Instead, the court ruled all the elements of cyberlibel were sufficiently alleged.

The court also sided with the DOJ’s position that the prescriptive period for cyberlibel is 12 years, not 1 year under the Revised Penal Code, as Rappler had argued.

It said that since the penalty for cyberlibel has been increased up to 8 years, the proper prescriptive period has also increased to 12 years.

Lastly, the court also said there were sufficient allegations to determine corporate liability of Rappler for the cyberlibel charge, Rappler.

“The re-publishing of the article is the illegal act imputed to Rappler Inc., as the publishing platform of the article, which accusation as supported by the prosecutor's resolution and attached documents the court finds probable cause to proceed with the trial of the case,” read the order.

With the denial of the motion to quash, Rappler, Ressa and Santos’ arraignment will push through on Tuesday, April 16, at 8:30 a.m.