Rappler CEO Ressa and Santos, convicted of cyber libel

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DAVAO CITY — TIME Magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year awardee and a former researcher-writer Rey Santos, Jr. were handed the first verdict on the many court cases lodged against Rappler. Manila RTC Judge Rainelda Estacio Montesa convicted Maria Ressa and Santos, Jr. of cyber libel, and sentenced them to jail for 6 months and 1 day up to 6 years, and allowed bail.

Montesa’s decision was reached after Ressa and Santos completed the trial in only 8 months which observers noted as possibly the fastest libel trial in recent history.

Members of the independent press also call it “a historic decision” handed down in time when the world is hard-hit with the impact of a pandemic, and community quarantine restrictions still in place.

The Court has allowed bail, while Ressa and Santos were also ordered to pay P200,000 in moral damages and another P200,000 in exemplary damages over charges filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng in a case that tested the 8-year-old Philippine Cybercrime Law.

In a statement by Rappler, it said Ressa and Santos are appealing their conviction to higher courts. Further, the statement cautioned saying “The verdict sets a dangerous precedent not only for journalists but for everyone online”.

Keng’s lawyer Melissa Andaya in an interview with ANC said Keng did not suppress press freedom saying he is “supportive” of the constitutional right.

“If at all we are only asking for accountability. They could have at least presented their basis for the online article. We hope that this case would serve as a lesson not only to the press but to everyone to be responsible for posting,” she said.

“We are asking for accountability and responsible journalism,” Andaya added.

Case Background:

Rappler published an article written by Santos about then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona on May 29, 2012. The article identified Filipino-Chinese businessman Wilfredo Keng as the owner of an SUV which Corona allegedly used during official functions. It further linked Keng to questionable and illegal activities based on cited sources. Newsline

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