MANILA - The appointment of the husband of Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa and the daughter of businessman Wilfredo Keng did not affect the verdict that was handed down to Rappler chief Maria Ressa on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
“Not at all. Because that would mean all decisions of the court—just because of judges or their relatives are appointees of the President—will be tainted. I think that is unfair for the judicial system,” Roque said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart on Wednesday.
Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte appoints thousands of individuals, and not all of them are known to him.
“I know this because I am somehow privy on judicial appointments, the trial court appointments up to the CA (Court of Appeals). The President virtually does not know anyone anymore because when he was practicing, these people were not even born yet,” he said.
Duterte in April named the judge’s husband, Jacob Montesa II, as one of the new judges in Makati City.
Keng’s daughter Patricia, was appointed to the Philippine Commission on Women in September.
Roque said Duterte relies on the Presidential Management Staff to get all the candidates pursuant to the recommendation of the Judicial Bar Council and then send it to the President.
"I mean appointment is made by the President, but the process is shared task with the Judicial Bar Council because the appointment is limited to the shortlisted individuals.”
“The President has been appointing complete strangers. He has to rely on curriculum vitae, he has to rely on the vetting made by PMS,” he said.
Keng is the complainant in the cyber libel case against Ressa and Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr.
On Monday, Montesa found Ressa and Santos guilty of cyber libel over a story tagging Keng to alleged illegal activities.
Keng was mentioned in a May 2012 article of Rappler as among personalities that purportedly allowed their luxury vehicles to be used by the country's chief justice at the time. The article described him as having a "shady past," citing an intelligence report and a prior article published on the Philippine Star.
Keng denied the allegation and claimed his side was not published.