Rappler CEO Maria Ressa arrested for cyber libel

By Aika Rey

WARRANT. Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa talks to her lawyer shortly before her arrest on February 13, 2019. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

WARRANT. Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa talks to her lawyer shortly before her arrest on February 13, 2019. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Officers from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa early Wednesday evening, February 13, in connection with a cyber libel case filed by the justice department.

Around 5 pm on Wednesday, NBI officers clad in civilian clothes went to the Rappler headquarters to serve the warrant of arrest. (READ: Rappler statement on Maria Ressa’s arrest: ‘We will continue to tell the truth’)

The arrest warrant was issued Tuesday, February 12, by Presiding Judge Rainelda Estacio Montesa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46.

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.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recommended the filing in court of cyber libel charges against Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr over a story published in May 2012 – or 4 months before the law that they allegedly violated was enacted.

The case, filed by the DOJ, stemmed from a complaint by businessman Wilfredo Keng, who was identified in a Rappler article as the owner of the SUV that then-chief justice Renato Corona had used during the impeachment trial.

Keng complained not about his alleged ownership of the vehicle, but about the backgrounder on him as having alleged links to illegal drugs and human trafficking, based on intelligence reports.

Apart from cyber libel, Ressa faces 5 tax cases and an alleged violation of the anti-dummy law. (READ: ‘Persecution by a bully government’: Journalists, politicians slam arrest of Maria Ressa)

In December 2018, Ressa posted bail twice over alleged violation of the Tax Code – one at the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 265 and at the Court of Tax Appeals.

Rappler has been subject to harassment and intimidation by the Duterte administration. President Rodrigo Duterte himself had made repeated false allegations against Rappler, including being supposedly funded by the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

Its reporters and correspondents have also been barred from covering all presidential events across the country. (READ: TIMELINE: Malacañang's evolving statements on Rappler ban) – Rappler.com