The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 found Rappler Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. guilty of cyberlibel.
“Wherefore, premises considered judgment is hereby rendered finding accused Reynaldo Santos Jr and Maria Angelita Ressa, guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Sec.4(c)(4) of Republic Act 10175or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, and one each hereby sentence to suffer the indeterminate penalty of prison correctional as minimum to six(6) year of prison correctional as maximum,” nakasaad sa desisyon ni Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa.
Additionally, each was ordered to pay P200,000 in moral damages and P200,000 in exemplary damages to complainant Wilfredo Keng.
The case against Ressa et. al. stemmed from the Rappler article published in 2012 and republished in 2014, regarding an intelligence report linking Keng to human trafficking and drug smuggling. During this time, Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was in effect.
Keng filed charges against Ressa and Santos in January of last year.
The court clarified that the accused may still be released on bail and may make a motion for reconsideration. They were given 15 days to do so.
The judge’s decision stated that Rappler had no proven corporate liability under Section 9 of RA 10175.
Meanwhile, Ressa admitted that the decision of the courts was a huge blow to Rappler. She said: “The guilty verdict on cyber libel might be devastating. We’ll keep fighting. It’s a blow to us but it is not unexpected.”
She added: “I have firsthand knowledge of the abuse of my rights. Rappler has been under attack for 4 years. The mission of Rappler remains the same.”
Ressa maintains that press freedom is the right of every Filipino. Meanwhile, Santos expressed his dismay at the decision regarding their case.
Ressa’s attorney Theodore Te said that the 15 days will be used to further examine the decision in order to determine the next steps.
“Definitely, we don’t agree with the decision. The nuances that were brought up in our memorandum, in our motion to quash; all of those need to be considered. I think the judge focused on one part of the charge but not on the other part. Judge focused on the part where there was an accusation of damage to reputation but not so much on the issue of republication,” said Te.
Keng’s camp, Atty. Melissa Andaya and Atty. Ryan Cruz, believes that the judiciary’s decision on the case successfully cleared Keng’s name. They added that any publication on online platforms brings with it great responsibility. (ANDI GARCIA)