Jun 22, 2020 @ 18:04

EX-CJ Panganiban agrees with Judge Montesa: Rappler’s article on Keng ‘libelous’

Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban believes Judge Rainalda Estacio Montesa’s ruling on Rappler’s cyber libel case was neither “baseless or capricious.”

“I think the article is indeed libelous,” said Panganiban a week after the Manila Regional Trial Court judge convicted Rappler executive editor Maria Angelita Ressa and former writer Rey Santos on June 15.

In his Inquirer column, Panganiban said: “Unquestionably, the article publicly imputed despicable crimes tending to dishonor Keng. The prosecution proved that Keng was never charged with, much less convicted of, the crimes imputed to him.”

The Rappler article, citing an intel report, accused businessman Wilfredo Keng as a “drug smuggler, human trafficker and murder suspect.”

Panganiban said since Keng was a private citizens, his lawyers need not prove malice, a key element in libel.

“The judge correctly stressed that the burden of proof to show lack of malice was shifted by the law to the accused,” said Panganiban who found it odd why Ressa and Santos refused to take the stand to defend their article.

But Panganiban said the case “deserved to be appealed.”

“The accused can still be acquitted based on prescription if they appeal and the Supreme Court sidesteps John Austin’s strict syllogism and embraces Roscoe Pound’s more liberal sociological school of jurisprudence that regards law merely as a brick — an important one — in the building of a just and humane society,” said Panganiban.

Keng filed his case in court on February 2019 or way past the one-year prescriptive period for ordinary libel under the Revised Penal Code (the article was posted in 2012 and republished in 2014). Montesa ruled that since cyber libel carried a heavier penalty than ordinary libel, she applied Republic Act No. 3326 which prescribe a 12-year period for violations of special laws.

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