Rappler chief executive officer and internationally awarded journalist Maria Ressa was found guilty today of cyber libel by the Manila City Regional Trial Court Branch 46.
Ressa’s co-accused, former Rappler journalist Reynaldo Santos was also declared guilty by the same court. Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa sentenced Ressa and Santos to prison for at least six months and one day.
However, the case is appealable all the way to the Supreme Court. The two are currently posting bail.
The case stems from a May 2012 article written by Santos which said that a businessman, named Wilfredo Keng, allegedly loaned vehicles to the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was impeached in 2012 for undeclared wealth. Keng has denied this allegation and filed a complaint five years after the publication of the article.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) ruled that the story, titled “CJ using SUVs of controversial businessman,” was “clearly defamatory.”
Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which the DOJ used as its basis for the case, was signed on Sept. 12, 2012 — four months after the Keng article was first published. The DOJ said that Rappler could still be indicted because the article was supposedly republished in February 2014 due to typographical errors.
Santos today said that he stands by his story.
Ressa is facing a string of charges, and has also been indicted for tax evasion and for allegedly violating the anti-dummy law. She believes the charges are politically motivated because of Rappler’s critical coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.
Editor’s note: This is a developing story and may be updated without notice.
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