MANILA, Philippines — Rappler founder and chief executive officer Maria Ressa was granted temporary liberty after posting a P100,000 bail bond at a Manila court yesterday morning following her indictment and arrest for cyber libel – a move she described as abuse of power and “weaponization of the law” against a citizen.
Rappler said it was harassment and intimidation of the Duterte administration’s critics in the media.
Ressa, who spent the night at the National Bureau Investigation (NBI) following her arrest on Wednesday night upon the order of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46, alleged that her right to due process was violated: “I didn’t know about this case. I wasn’t notified about my indictment in court.”?
She also questioned the timing of her arrest, which came after office hours that prevented her from posting bail.?“We’re trying to post bail but what I’ve seen coming here is that there’s a lot of roadblocks,” Ressa said, noting that the arresting NBI officers arrived at their office after 5 p.m.
Her lawyers tried to post bail before a Pasay City night court, which is open until 9 p.m., but the metropolitan trial court judge on duty did not accept the bail because of incomplete documents and unstated amount of bail in the arrest warrant, which Ressa also questioned.
“I’m saying and I’m appealing to you not to be silent, especially if you’re next. You have to be outraged like what I’m doing now,” she said minutes after posting bail.
Earlier, the feisty news executive said her arrest was clearly government’s message to silence journalists and it was filled with irregularities.
Accompanied by her counsel, Ressa arrived around 11 a.m. at the Manila RTC Branch 46 to post bail but Presiding Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa, who issued the warrant of arrest, was not present and the bail hearing was presided over by Pairing Judge Ma. Teresa Abadilla.
Abadilla set Ressa’s arraignment in March. Ressa’s lawyer JJ Disini said they will file a motion to quash and question the information regarding the cyber libel case filed against his client.
The camp of Ressa slammed Pasay MeTC Executive Judge Allan Ariola for rejecting the bail posting, which they said violated Rule 114, Section 17 of the Rules of Court.
Disini then clarified that the judge refused to accept the bail due to uncertainty in jurisdiction, especially since it was issued by a higher level court.
But Disini questioned such excuse by the judge: “The law says he did have the authority to release but it got to the point where the court actually shot us down, so there were no other options.”
The STAR learned from judicial sources in Pasay courts, however, that Disini and lawyers of Ressa were also not able to submit documents necessary for posting bail, including a copy of the information or formal case filed by the DOJ against their client.
“That’s basic in application for bail and they didn’t have it. The lawyers should know that,” a source bared.
The court insider further revealed that the camp of Ressa even called Montesa, who issued the arrest warrant, last Wednesday evening and tried to convince her to return to her office for the processing of bail grant.
Hold the line
In a statement, Rappler said the “persecution” of Ressa sets a dangerous precedent not just for the media but anyone who publishes anything online.
“No one is safe,” it warned.
Rappler said it would not be cowed by attempts to intimidate them and vowed to continue its journalistic duties. “We will continue to tell the truth and report what we see and hear. We are first and foremost journalists,” it stressed.
Rappler said no amount of legal cases, black propaganda and lies can silence Filipino journalists who continue to hold the line.
Ressa said “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.”
The news outfit, which also faced revocation of Securities and Exchange Commission registration as well as tax evasion cases, claimed that the cyber libel case filed by the Department of Justice based on a complaint of businessman Wilfredo Keng is “preposterous and baseless.”
“Our story (which came out in March 2012) said former chief justice Renato Corona used a vehicle registered under the name of Mr. Keng, who, based on intelligence reports and previously published stories, had alleged links to illegal drugs and human trafficking. We called Mr. Keng and got his side before the story was published,” it argued.
Rappler said the charges accused Ressa of cyber libel allegedly because she was the editor of the story that was published, but stressed that she was not.
The news outfit pointed out no less than then NBI Cybercrime Division chief Manuel Eduarte terminated a probe on the matter in February 2018 after finding no basis to proceed, given that the one-year prescriptive period had lapsed. (The Philippine Star)