Palace tells Rappler's Maria Ressa: You 'transgressed the law'

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 16 2020 04:34 PM

Rappler CEO and journalist Maria Ressa speaks during a press conference after receiving a guilty verdict on cyber libel by the Manila Regional Trial Court on June 15, 2020. Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News

MANILA-- Rappler chief Maria Ressa "transgressed the law," Malacanang said Tuesday after the journalist shot back at the government over her cyber libel conviction.

Ressa had described as "misleading at best, a lie at worst," Palace remarks that President Rodrigo Duterte was for freedom of the press.

"Malacañang said the Palace has nothing to do with it. The same way that it said the Palace had nothing to do with the shutdown of ABS-CBN. Let me put it this way: Words are nothing. Action speaks louder than words, and for 4 years, the pattern of actions is very clear,” Ressa told ANC on Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Ressa's sentiments were "understandable" given her conviction over an 8-year-old article.

"Ms. Ressa can speak and say whatever she wants against the current administration. It is her right. It is her freedom of expression. It goes to show that there is no stifling of free speech in the country and that democracy in the Philippines remains vibrant," Roque said in a statement.

"We wish to remind Ms. Ressa and her supporters that she transgressed the law when she maligned the reputation of a private individual," he said.

The case against Ressa was filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng, who accused Rappler of smearing his reputation over a May 2012 article alleging that he allowed former Chief Justice Renato Corona to use an SUV. The same article cited an intelligence report alleging Keng had a shady past.

Aside from Ressa, former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. was also convicted in the case.

The news website argued that the Anti-Cybercrime Law was approved months later, in September 2012. Keng denied the allegations and requested that the article be taken down, which the news website refused to do.

Ressa on Monday said the court's decision was meant to be a "cautionary tale" as she urged Filipinos to fight for their rights.

Roque, a rights lawyer, said Keng only exercised his right to file a case against Ressa.

"The private individual who Ms. Ressa besmirched simply exercised his right against abusive persons who wield power and influence, including journalists like Maria Ressa," Roque said.

"I advise Ms. Ressa to just face the complaint/decision head-on," he said.