'Nakakatawa na siya': Maria Ressa slams new libel charge over tweet

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 04 2020 12:31 PM

'Nakakatawa na siya': Maria Ressa slams new libel charge over tweet 1
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, moments before her interview with Karen Davila for Headstart in Makati City, Feb. 15, 2019. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on Friday called "ridiculous" her second online libel case that stemmed from tweeting a screenshot of a news article that was quoted in her news website's story that had led to her libel conviction. 

Speaking on ABS-CBN's Teleradyo, the founder of the embattled news website said her camp has filed a motion to quash the criminal charge, citing a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that pressing like, commenting and sharing on social media could not constitute cyber libel.

"I hope the judge is fair. For every new case, I always hope that and I submit myself to the court pero talagang nakakatawa na siya (but it has become ridiculous)," she said.

Ressa said she questioned the Makati City prosecutors for charging her with violating Section 4 (c) 4 of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 in relation to Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code on libel over a tweet she posted on Feb. 16, 2019.

"I found that for this case to prosper, the prosecutor that looked at it, I question the judgement..." she said.

She added, "But we filed a motion to quash yesterday precisely because it's unbelievable, like a lot of the cases. Parang legal acrobatics nga siya eh (It's like legal acrobatics).

The veteran journalist, who has received numerous awards from around the world, is facing her ninth arrest warrant, which observers view as part of a crackdown on critical media in the country.

Ressa has continuously objected to the cases against her, including tax evasion charges over Rappler Holdings’ sale of Philippine depositary receipts, calling them “politically-motivated” due to their critical coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte.

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Her second cyber libel charge was filed by the same businessman who impleaded her in the first case that led to her conviction. 

In the tweet that led to the second case, Ressa shared screenshots of a 2002 Philippine Star article which tagged trader Wilfredo Keng in the killing of a former Manila councilor and in various alleged illegal activities.

Rappler published an article about the businessman in 2012 quoting portions of the 2002 Philippine Star report, which was taken down at Keng’s demand.

Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Mark Anthony Nuguit, in finding probable cause to charge Ressa for the second cyber libel case, said the journalist acted with malice when she posted the tweet.

“[O]f all the things she could say — she deliberately chose a 17-year-old article, which was already taken down by the Philippine Star from its website, that tends to cause dishonor, discredit and contempt to [the] complainant,” the resolution read.

But in her motion to quash, Ressa pointed out that the criminal charge was based on a tweet that was not defamatory. If at all, she said, the allegedly defamatory statement was authored by PhilStar.com, over which Keng supposedly did not take action.

She also invoked freedom of expression under the Constitution, as a journalist.

“Keeping people informed, using any platform at her disposal (in this case, Twitter), is part of her duty as a journalist; certainly, the non-defamatory statement she wrote to inform people following her on Twitter fails under the exercise of her right under Article III, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution and cannot form the basis for this charge,” she said.

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