FLAG comes to defense of Rappler, Ressa in cyberlibel case

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The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) has come to the defense of Rappler, Inc., Maria Ressa and former journalist Reynaldo Santos, Jr. in their controversial cyberlibel case.

In an 18-page motion to quash, FLAG questioned the prosecution’s case for being hinged on the fact that the article on Wilfredo Keng’s purported “shady past” was “re-published” on February 19, 2014.

The article—which talked about an intelligence report on the businessman’s alleged involvement in human trafficking and drug smuggling, as well as the 2002 murder of Manila Councilor Chika Go—was originally published on May 29, 2012.

FLAG said the “multiple publication” theory was not applicable because the 1988 case of Marcelo Soriano v. Intermediate Appellate Court concerned the issue of venue and jurisdiction in a libel case, and not the issue of whether the number of offenses is equivalent to the number of times a statement is published.

The Soriano ruling was supposedly not binding because it was handed down by the Supreme Court (SC) 3rd Division, and not by the SC sitting en banc.

FLAG also argued the “multiple publication” theory was only used in SC decisions involving print media.

The group also noted the “re-publication” of the article in February 2014 did not create a substantial change and only involved the correction of the word “evasion,” which was misspelled as “evation.”

By debunking the “multiple publication” theory, FLAG argued that the Cybercrime Law could not retroactively applied to the May 2012 article since the law was enacted only in September 2012.

Even in February 2014, a temporary restraining order (TRO) by the SC was still in effect from October 2012 to April 2014, stopping the law from taking effect. #

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