Counsel: UN expert's role in Maria Ressa case not an interference in court proceedings


Posted at Jun 06 2023 01:09 PM

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa arrives at the Pasig Regional Trial Court to attend her arraignment on May 2, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa arrives at the Pasig Regional Trial Court to attend her arraignment on May 2, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The counsel of UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Irene Khan said Tuesday their motion to intervene in Maria Ressa's cyber libel conviction is not an interference in local court proceedings.

"This is not an interference, this is not an intervention actually in the general sense that we understand in international law," lawyer Dean Rodel Taton told ANC's "Rundown".

He said Khan is only volunteering to appear as an "amicus curiae" or "friend of the court" since her opinion about libel or defamation maybe relevant considering her expertise.

"We are looking at the appreciation by our court, the highest court in the country, particularly that in the past, based on decisions by the court, the discussion on the protection of human rights is given attention to and I think with the experts like the special rapporteur would be presenting their opinions on the matter, this may not necessarily be influential really," Taton said.

"I mean, their recommendations are mere recommendations and their opinions are mere opinions. But this may probably shed light on the many issues that are around these legal questions in the country," he added.

Ressa, along with former Rappler writer and researcher Reynaldo Santos, were sentenced in June 2020 to up to 6 years in prison for defaming businessman Wilfredo Keng over an article linking him to then-Chief Justice Renato Corona, describing him as one with a “shady past.”

The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 found Santos liable as author of the article and Ressa as executive editor of Rappler.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the conviction of the two, even increasing the maximum jail term to up to 6 years, 8 months and 20 days.

In a press briefer, Khan expressed concern over the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which punishes cyber libel.

“Her amicus curiae brief will provide the Court with the international and regional legal standards as they apply to freedom of expression, especially regarding its application to the law of defamation. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that the law in the Philippines fails to adequately protect the rights to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the Philippines is a party,” the briefer said.

“In particular, the Cybercrime Prevention Act raises serious concerns that it limits the ability of journalists to expose, document and address issue of important public interest, thereby violating the right to receive and impart information,” it added.


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