Filipino Journalist Maria Ressa, Convicted Guilty of Cyber Libel Charges

By Marie

Maria Ressa, the CEO of the Philippine-based news website Rappler, was found guilty of cyber libel charges.

Ressa, alongside former Rappler writer and research Reynaldo Santos Jr, were both found responsible of violating Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. The verdict was handed down by Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46, with Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa presiding over the cyber libel case.

The case was built around the complaint by businessman Wilfredo Keng since he was one of the main personalities mentioned in a Rappler article written by Santos in May 2012. The businessman accused Rappler of ruining his public image as the article allegedly portrays him with a “shady past,” linking him to human trafficking and drug smuggling based on an intelligent report.

While the Rappler article was published in May 2012, the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted Rappler, Ressa, and Santos in February 2019 as it was “republished” in February 2014. The defending party, on the other hand, insists that the complaint is filed outside the prescriptive period, which must be within a year from the publication date. Keng only filed his complaint in 2017, which is more than a year since either 2012 or 2014.

DOJ, in return, said that the prescriptive period for filing cyber libel cases has been increased to 12 years since the penalty for the said crime has been increased up to 8 years.

Image Courtesy of Rappler

Aside from the recently concluded case, Ressa is also facing another libel case, two criminal cases regarding foreign ownership of her companies, and a series of investigations about her old tax returns.

For now, both Ressa and Santos are still entitled to post-conviction bail and have the freedom to appeal against the verdict for the next 15 days. For the moral damages, they are ordered to pay Php 200,000 and other Php 200,000 for exemplary damages.