Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, reporter attend arraignment in cyber libel case

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2021 05:40 PM

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, reporter attend arraignment in cyber libel case 1
Attorney Theodor Te, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, and reporter Rambo Talabong speak to the media after attending an arraignment inside the Manila City Hall on June 29, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and multimedia reporter Rambo Talabong on Tuesday attended the arraignment for their cyber libel case at a Manila court stemming from an article alleging "thesis for sale" at the De La Salle University-College of St. Benilde.

The story was published in 2020, where Talabong reported on a complaint alleging that Pineda, through a middleman, supposedly allowed students to pass their thesis subject in exchange for P20,000. Talabong said he spent weeks gathering information and trying to be fair but Pineda did not give his side.

The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 24 entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Ressa and Talabong as the two did not enter a plea. 

In a statement to reporters, Ressa said she hoped to reach a middle ground with Pineda, who filed the case earlier this year.

She and Talabong had each posted a P30,000 bail.

The Rappler chief called for the decriminalization of libel, which she was found guilty last year

“Cyber libel is being used as a tool, so one of the things that we ask is [to] decriminalize libel. The reason we didn’t actually put in our own plea even though we stand by our story is because of 2 fronts. The case itself and the actual charge of cyber libel,” Ressa said.

“Decriminalize libel. It’s being used as a weapon against journalists to take us away from journalism.”

Talabong echoed Ressa’s views, as he stressed their investigative piece was based on facts anchored on research.

“Pinapanindigan namin ang storya namin, base sa pakikipag-usap namin sa aming sources at talagang ginawa namin ang aming due diligence para mabuo ang storya,” according to the reporter. 

(We stand by our story, as it was based on our communication with sources. We exercised due diligence in publishing the story.)

Rappler and Ressa are also facing charges of tax fraud, violation of the Securities Regulation Code and the Anti-Dummy Law among others.

Rappler, which has published stories critical of the administration, has described cases and acts against it as an attack on press freedom.

- With reports from Jerome Lantin and Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

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