In news that shocked the Philippines, Maria Ressa, CEO and founder of Rappler – an online news agency operating under rappler.com – was arrested at around 5 P.M. by the National Bureau of Investigation after a warrant of arrest has been released for her capture.
The warrant of arrest was issued by Presiding Judge Rainelda Estacio Montesa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 in connection to the libel case filed against her and her researcher, Reynaldo Santos Jr.
The cyber libel, which was supposedly committed four months before the law criminalizing the act was enacted, was about a story published by Maria Ressa’s Rappler regarding Wilfredo Keng being identified as the owner of the SUV used during the impeachment of the late Chief Justice Reynato Corona. Keng’s complaint, however, was not about the SUV but about the background report on him saying that he is involved in illegal drugs and human trafficking based on intelligence reports.
According to a report from Rappler, “efforts were made for Ressa to post bail tonight at the Pasay night court. Unfortunately, the judge refused to accept the bail despite having the power to do so under Rule 114 section 17 of the rules of court.”
Aside from the cyber libel case, the journalist also face tax violation cases as well as a violation of the dummy law.
Ressa’s supporters argue that the case filed against her would set a dangerous precedent in the interpretation of what constitutes cyber-libel. They said that now, anyone who published an alleged libelous content in the past can be charged with cyber-libel cases when someone reopens their content, irrespective of the stature of limitation for cyber-libel which is one year.
Rappler, who was deemed to be critical of the Duterte administration, has been subjected to political harassment including the incident where their Presidential reporter, Pia Ranada, was banned from entering the premises of Malacañan.
“We are not intimidated. No amount of legal cases, black propaganda, and lies can silence Filipino journalists who continue to hold the line. These legal acrobatics show how far the government will go to silence journalists, including the pettiness of forcing me to spend the night in jail.” Maria Ressa said in a statement after her arrest.
Because her request for bail was denied, Ressa remains in the custody of the NBI as of publication. /apr