Bato cries 'foul' over linking of Maria Ressa's cyber libel conviction to Duterte admin

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 15 2020 02:57 PM

Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa delivers a sponsorship speech on June 3, 2020. Albert Calvelo, Senate PRIB

MANILA - Administration Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa on Monday cried "foul" as several camps linked the conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and a former researcher for cyber libel to President Rodrigo Duterte's alleged attack on press freedom.

Ressa and former writer-researcher Reynaldo Santos, Jr. were convicted over a 2012 article that allegedly defamed businessman Wilfredo Keng.

"That is purely an independent decision handed down by a judicial court that originated from a complaint filed by a private individual. So it is so foul on the part of the critics to keep on dragging the Duterte administration into this issue," Dela Rosa told ABS-CBN News in a statement.

"Attack on press freedom? Tell it to the marines!" said the former national police chief.

Minority senators earlier urged the public to "speak out" against Ressa's conviction, calling the court's decision another "attack" meant to silence critics of the Duterte administration.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines views the guilty verdict as "as intimidation" and "ultimately as efforts to have a chilling effect on the media."

"It's a menacing blow to press freedom in the Philippines and adds a new weapon in a growing legal arsenal against constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties in an Asian outpost of democracy," the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines said for its part.

The Duterte government has banned Rappler from covering presidential events since 2018 after Duterte described it as a "fake news outlet."

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Ressa and Santos still have the right to appeal the verdict.