DEVELOPING: Rappler CEO Maria Ressa served with arrest warrant for ‘cyber libel’

Photo: ABS-CBN News.
Photo: ABS-CBN News.

Award-winning journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa was served a warrant of arrest by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) late this afternoon for a charge of cyber libel.

NBI agents served the warrant at Rappler’s headquarters in Metro Manila’s Pasig City and allegedly prohibited employees from taking videos and photos, according to the news website’s own official Twitter account.

“I’m waiting for our lawyer. Then will go to wherever they got the arrest warrant to confront it,” Ressa told Coconuts Manila in a text message.

The warrant was issued by Presiding Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46, Rappler reported. It is in connection to a cyber libel charge from the Department of Justice (DOJ) that indicted Ressa and Rappler for an article published in May 2012.

The complaint was filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng. The story in question reported that 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.

The DOJ ruled that the Rappler story titled “CJ using SUVs of controversial businessman” was “clearly defamatory.”

However, many noted that Rappler cannot be charged with libel as the article was published in May 2012 and the Cybercrime Law covering such charges was only passed in September of that year.

“Since when could laws be applied retroactively?” former Rappler reporter and current Vice Asia Editor in Chief Natashya Gutierrez tweeted.

Ressa and Rappler have been facing multiple legal raps, including the revocation of their license in January last year and a number of tax cases.

Both Ressa and Rappler have been critical of Rodrigo Duterte’s administration and sparked the ire of the president and his supporters. Duterte has repeatedly called the news outlet “fake news” and even banned one of its reporters from the presidential palace, Malacañang.

Journalists from all over the world have rallied behind Ressa and supported her fight for press freedom in the Philippines. She was chosen as one of Time magazine’s persons of the year in 2018.

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