Robredo: Ressa’s cyber libel conviction a threat to Filipinos’ freedom
MANILA, Philippines — A threat to the freedom of one Filipino is a threat to all of our freedoms, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Monday, after a Manila court found Rappler Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa and former writer-researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. guilty of cyber libel.
In a statement, Robredo called the court ruling a “chilling development.”
“A threat to the freedom of even a single Filipino is a threat to all of our freedoms. If the law and our government institutions can be brought to bear upon Ms. Ressa, then we should be wary of what this means to the freedoms of ordinary citizens,” Robredo said.
“We must remember that this is merely the latest instance of law being utilized to muzzle our free press. Silencing, harassing, and weaponizing law against the media sends a clear message to every dissenting voice: Keep quiet or you are next,” she added.
Amidst the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Robredo underscored the importance of a free press not only to ensure that the country’s collective response is based on accurate information but also to uphold truth-telling and the courage to speak the same as “vital cornerstones of our democracy.”
“Despite this outcome, it is incumbent upon the press, and every free Filipino, to hold fast to our courage and not be cowed into silence. If anything, this must only firm up our resolve as we work towards a humane, truthful, and law-abiding society,” said the Vice President.
The case filed by Filipino-Chinese businessman Wilfredo Keng in 2017 stemmed from a Rappler article titled “CJ Using SUVs of Controversial Businessman” written by Santos in 2012.
The article claimed that former Chief Justice Renato Corona was using a Chevrolet Suburban sports utility vehicle found to be registered to Keng.
It also cited an intelligence report prepared in 2002 which allegedly stated that Keng had been under surveillance by the National Security Council for alleged involvement in human trafficking and drug smuggling.
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