DOJ allows filing of cyberlibel case vs Rappler’s Ressa, reporter
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has approved the filing of a cyberlibel case against an executive and reporter of online news outfit Rappler.
In an eight-page resolution, Rappler executive director Maria Ressa and reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr. will be charged with cyberlibel — specifically for violating Section 4 (c)(4) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act No. 10175).
The case stemmed from the complaint filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng, who was the subject of an article titled “CJ using SUVs of controversial businessman” — “CJ” referring to then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was then under an impeachment trial.
Keng denied the allegation and requested that the article be taken down.
In February 2014, the article was updated, but it remained online.
“The publication complained of imputes to complainant Keng the commission of crimes. It is clearly defamatory,” read the resolution.
“Under Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code, every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown,” the resolution said. “The presumed malice is known as malice in law. The recognized exceptions, where malice in law is not present, are the absolutely or qualifiedly privileged communications.”
As the resolution pointed out, the article “does not fall under any of the absolutely or qualifiedly privileged communications. It is not qualifiedly privileged as a ‘private communication made in the performance of any legal, moral or social duty’.”
Ressa argued that she could be accused of cyber libel because the cybercrime law was not yet in effect when the story was published on May 29, 2012.
The Cybercrime Law was approved on Sept. 12, 2012, and took effect only on Oct. 3, 2012 — or 15 days after the law was published as required by law.
The law took effect more than four months after the story was published.
The DOJ agreed with Ressa, but it stressed that it did not share the same view — because the article was updated in February 2014 and remained posted.
On the other hand, the complaint against Rappler officers had been dismissed. The officers are James Bitanga, Manuel Ayala, Nico Jose Nolledo, Glenda Gloria, Felicia Atienza, Dan Albert De Padua, and Jose Maria Hofilena.
The DOJ said they did not have control over the publication of the article in question.
The resolution was written by a panel of investigators composed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edwin S. Dayog and State Prosecutors Florencio D. Dela Cruz Jr. and Jeannette M. Dacpano.
The resolution was approved by Acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon. /atm
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