Ressa's accuser vindicated with journalist's cyber libel conviction: lawyer

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 15 2020 01:41 PM | Updated as of Jun 15 2020 02:28 PM

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MANILA - Journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa's conviction for cyber libel is not an issue of press freedom, but "vindication" for the reputation of businessman Wilfredo Keng, his lawyer said Monday.

Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. were both found guilty and face up to 6 years in prison for the May 2012 article that linked Keng to alleged illegal activities. 

The complaint does not suppress press freedom, Keng's lawyer Melissa Andaya told ANC as she said her client was "supportive" of the constitutional right.

"If at all, we are only asking for accountability. They could have at least presented their basis for online article. We hope that this case would serve as a lesson not only to the press but to everyone to be responsible in posting," she said.

"We are asking for accountability and responsible journalism." 

The businessman's camp sent more than 50 e-mails and text messages to Rappler over 7 months requesting for the article to be taken down or include his side, said Keng's lawyers.

They also sent the news site a certification that Keng was not involved in the narcotics trade from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, said his legal counsel. 

Keng's lawyer Leonard De Vera said a Rappler reporter told him that an updated article was already written and was up for approval by editors. However, no revised article was ever published. 

"During the trial, Mr. Keng sat on the witness stand, gave his testimony, and presented all the evidence," Andaya said.

"On the other hand, Ms. Ressa, Santos did not even bother to take the witness stand and explain their side. I don’t think there is what they’re harping on press freedom. That is not the case," she added. 

Ressa and Santos will remain free on bail they previously and were given 15 days to appeal, according to their counsel, Theodore Te.

Both were ordered to pay P200,000 in moral damages and P200,000 in exemplary damages. -- With reports from Mike Navallo and Niko Baua, ABS-CBN News