Ressa camp files motion to quash cyber libel case over tweet about Keng
MANILA, Philippines — The camp of journalist Maria Ressa, who is also Chief Executive Officer of online site Rappler, has filed a motion to quash the other cyber libel case filed against her by businessman Wilfredo Keng.
In the 10-page motion prepared by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), Ressa’s camp contends that the only parts of the tweet made by Ressa were an introduction to an old Philstar.com article — none of which, they said, was defamatory in nature.
Ressa’s tweet, FLAG says, does not violate cyber libel provisions under Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
“The Information against the accused is based on a Tweet that: (a) has independently-authored content that is not defamatory, and also (b) shares content that is authored by another that is objected to as defamatory,” FLAG lawyers Theodore Te and Maria Carmela Maranan said in the petition dated Wednesday.
“It is the latter content — made by PhilStar.com—that has been previously objected to by the private complainant as defamatory,” they added.
They also noted that the Philstar.com that Ressa referred to was not written by Ressa, which means that she neither aided in cyber libel crime.
“Clearly, based on the facts stated in the Information itself, there is no basis to conclude that an offense exists—not Cyberlibel under Section 4(c)(4) because Ms. Ressa is not the author of the RT’d or shared article, and not “Aiding or Abetting” under Section 5 in relation to Section 4(c)(4) because it has been declared unconstitutional,” the lawyers noted.
This is not the first cyber libel case filed by Keng against Ressa: last June 2020, Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa found Ressa and former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. guilty of violating cyber libel, over a 2012 article claiming that Keng lent his sports utility vehicle to former chief justice Renato Corona.
The story alleged that Keng had been under surveillance for alleged involvement in human trafficking and drug smuggling.
This other cyber libel charge, filed by Keng in February 2020, focuses on the tweet that Ressa made in 2019. The part that Ressa wrote says:
“Here’s the 2002 article on the “private businessman” who filed the cyberlibel case, which was thrown out by the NBI then revived by the DOJ. #HoldTheLine”
The first cyber libel complaint — for the story posted by Rappler — was filed by Keng in 2017 or five years after it was first posted. [ac]
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