Court upholds Maria Ressa conviction for cyber libel

The Court of Appeals rejected yesterday the motion of chief executive officer Maria Ressa of online news outfit Rappler and former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. to reverse their conviction on cyber libel charges.

Associate Justice Roberto Quiroz in a 16-page decision he penned, said the tribunal did not find merit in the arguments raised by Ressa and Santos in their motion for reconsideration challenging its 7 July decision upholding the decision of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46.

Associate Justices Ramon Bato Jr. and Germano Francisco Legaspi concurred in the decision promulgated on 10 October.

The case stemmed from a May 2012 report on businessman Wilfredo Keng which was proven as fiction.

Ressa and Santos had filed a motion for reconsideration on the CA’s July decision which upheld the guilty verdict in June 2020 against both.

In the said resolution released yesterday, the CA said the MR is “unmeritorious” and is “mere reiterations” of points that it had already addressed.

Long detention awaits offenders

Aside from affirming the Manila court’s ruling to convict Ressa and Santos, the CA also earlier lengthened the maximum prison penalty to up to six years, eight months, and 20 days. The minimum was set at six months and one day.

The case stemmed from a May 2012 Rappler article that reported on false allegations against Keng.

In October 2017, Keng filed a complaint or nearly five years after the article was posted since his request to remove the offending article.

Rappler earlier said Ressa and Santos will avail of all legal remedies, including elevating the decision to the Supreme Court for review.

The article was published before the passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, and Keng filed the complaint in October 2017, almost five years after the article was posted.

Republication of the article in February 2014 when the organization updated the story meant that the accused were still liable, according to the CA.

“As settled, the determination of republication is not hinged on whether the corrections made therein were substantial or not, as what matters is that the very exact libelous article was again published on a later date,” the court said in its latest ruling.

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