Court junks cyberlibel raps vs Ressa, reporter after complainant desists
MANILA — A Manila court dismissed the cyberlibel complaints filed against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and reporter Rambo Talabong after the complainant desisted from pursuing the case, citing “misappreciation of facts.”
“The RTC (regional trial court) of Manila, Branch 24 issued an order in open session last August 10 dismissing the case with prejudice against Rambo Talabong and Maria Ressa after the complainant Mr. Ariel Pineda submitted an affidavit of desistance, which he affirmed in open court,” said Ressa and Tambolong’s lawyer, Theodore Te.
“Mr. Pineda stated that the filing of the case arose out of a misappreciation of facts and that he was no longer interested in pursuing the case against both Mr. Talabong and Ms. Ressa,” he added.
The case stemmed from a story Rappler published in January 2020 alleging that the complainant Ariel Pineda supposedly allowed students of the College of St. Benilde (CSB) to pass their thesis in exchange for P20,000.
Pineda then sued Ressa and Talabong almost a year after the publication of the said story.
According to Te, Ressa and Talabong’s camp welcomed the dismissal of the said charges, but underscored the danger criminal cyberlibel poses to both the freedom of expression and press freedom.
“The dismissal is, of course, a welcome development. That the case was even filed against both Mr. Talabong and Ms. Ressa at the level of the investigating prosecutor however spotlights the danger to press freedom and freedom of expression that criminal cyberlibel poses,” Te said.
“Perhaps it may be time to consider seriously taking a second look at the Cybercrime Protection Act of 2012 particularly its provisions on cyberlibel as a crime,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ressa called the dismissal a “temporary relief,” as she and Rappler are still facing seven separate criminal and civil proceedings.
“Another criminal case against me and our reporter has been dropped. It’s a temporary relief, but the ongoing campaign of harassment and intimidation against me and Rappler continues. These ridiculous cases remind us all of the importance of independent journalism holding power to account. Now we at Rappler can focus on what we do best – journalism,” she said in a statement.
Talabong, for his part, said he was relieved in the dismissal of the case but remains firm in his call to decriminalize libel.
“I am relieved, but my call remains: Decriminalize libel. It drains so much time and resources. No journalist should have to go through this. #DefendPressFreedom,” Talabong said in tweet on Thursday.
Second one down.
— Rambo Talabong (@ramboreports) August 12, 2021
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