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Ressa complainant: Conviction to bolster people’s respect for media

KENG MAINTAINS CHARGES WERE IN NO WAY AN ATTACK AGAINST PRESS FREEDOM
/ 08:01 PM June 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The person who lodged cyber libel charges against Rappler’s chief executive officer Maria Ressa and former reporter said that the conviction of the two was a vindication on his part.

But according to businessman Wilfredo Keng, the damage made by Rappler’s alleged inaccurate report “resounds” even if Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa handed down a guilty verdict against the journalists on Monday morning.

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“Today, with the judgment of conviction against Ressa and Santos promulgated by the Hon. Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa, I have been vindicated, at least, to the extent possible considering that the damage had already been done,” Keng said in a statement hours after the court’s decision.

“Even today, when the truth should have set me free, Rappler’s lies still resound after the bang of the gavel has faded away,” he added.

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Keng’s case stemmed from Rappler’s supposedly report stating that the businessman lent his sports utility vehicle to late ex-chief justice Renato Corona.

But aside from that, the report also mentioned that Keng was under surveillance for alleged involvement in human trafficking and drug smuggling — an assertion that he vehemently denied numerous times.

READ: Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, writer found guilty of cyber libel 

He insisted that he has never been charged or has been the subject of any investigation — clarifying that the cases were not an attack on the country’s vaunted press freedom, but a move to correct Rappler’s error and clear his name.

In a way, Keng said he hopes the case would increase the people’s respect for the country’s mainstream media organizations, as they would be more careful in the stories they produce.

“Ressa portrays herself as an alleged defender of press freedom and as a purported target of the Philippine Government, but this in no way exempts her from respecting and following Philippine laws,” Keng explained.

“This is NOT a fight against the Press Freedom, an institution I deeply respect and uphold […] My filing AND winning this case assures Filipinos that published falsehoods will not remain unchallenged and unchecked in this jurisdiction but will instead be dealt with by law, strengthening the people’s respect for the Philippine Media in the years to come,” he added.

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Rappler’s reportage has been tagged as critical of the administration, with President Rodrigo Duterte even voicing his displeasure of the news organization several times.

This has led some people to speculate that the case was orchestrated by the government, as Keng filed the charge only in 2017, despite the story being published in 2012 — even before the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was enacted.

But Keng stressed that the government has nothing to do with the case.

“This case is NOT a case of the government. I am a private citizen and this is a private suit. I filed my complaint prior to and independently of any case the Philippine Government may have filed against Ressa,” he said.

“Unlike Ressa, who attended hearings but who refused to take the witness stand, I testified in open court because I believe that I am telling the truth. I went through all stages of the legal process with no shortcuts or exemptions,” he added.

READ: ‘Holding press freedom hostage’: Solons condemn guilty verdict vs Rappler’s Maria Ressa 

READ: Rappler: Conviction of Ressa, Santos ‘sets dangerous precedent for everyone online’ 

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TAGS: businessman Wilfredo Keng, cyber libel, Cybercrime Prevention Act, Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa, Manila Regional Trial Court, Maria Ressa, Philippine news updates, press freedom, Rappler
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