Jun 17, 2020 @ 9:47

Wilfredo Keng claims vindication in Maria Ressa conviction

The businessman who filed the cyber libel case against Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa has claimed that he was vindicated when a court in Manila recently convicted her and a former writer.

“Today, with the judgment of conviction against Ressa and Santos promulgated by the Hon. Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa, I have been vindicated, at least, to the extent possible considering that the damage had already been done,” Wilfredo Keng said in a statement.

“Even today, when the truth should have set me free, Rappler’s lies still resound after the bang of the gavel has faded away,” he added.

Just the other day, the Manila regional trial court found Ressa, and former writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. both guilty of cyber libel, reiterating that press freedom is not absolute.

In a 37-page decision, Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa of Branch 46 sentenced Ressa and Santos to a maximum prison term of 6 years for violation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act

Also, Ressa – a former reporter of CNN and staunch critic of maverick Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte – and Santos were ordered to pay jointly and severally Keng the amount of P200, 000 as moral damages and P200, 000 as exemplary damages.

In its ruling, the court ruled that “freedom of the press should not be used as a shield for accountability.”

“With the evolution of government and society, it has been accepted and established that the exercise of the right to free speech and of the press is not absolute as it comes with enormous responsibility to ensure that another person’s right is respected,” the decision said.

Furthermore, the court found the news article as defamatory after Rappler failed to offer proof of its disclosure against the complainant.

The court added that if a private citizen or a ‘netizen’ can be held accountable for any posts or comments in the internet,” so too must accountability and journalistic responsibility be brought to bear upon online news organizations since the extent of its influence…goes beyond the physical limitation of printed publications.”

The court noted that Keng reached out to Rappler for seven months persuading the popular online news outfit to publish his side. All his pleas for a balanced news, however, fell to deaf ears.

” What further militates against the defense of both accused is that Keng pleaded to them to publish a clarificatory article, or at the very least, to air his side of the story. Yet again, both accused did nothing,” the decision said.

In his complaint, Keng sued Ressa and Santos for cyberlibel over a May 2012 article that he supposedly allowed former chief justice Renato Corona to use his SUV, and he was allegedly involved in human trafficking and drug smuggling.

Citing the multiple publication rule, government prosecutors indicted Ressa, and Santos because the article, though it was published in 2012, was republished on February 2014, hence punishable under the cyberlibel law.

Ressa contested the Department of Justice’s resolution, saying that the law did not took effect until April 2014 when the SC decision upholding the law’s validity became final, and the restraining order was lifted.

But the Manila RTC in a nine-page order stressed the TRO just suspended the “implementation and enforcement of RA 10175, so that crimes committed during the said period cannot be prosecuted” but it did not suspend its effectivity.#

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