Philippine journalist Maria Ressa (C) leaves her office after she was arrested in Manila on February 13, 2019. Ressa, who has repeatedly clashed with President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested in her Manila office on February 13 in what rights advocates called an act of "persecution".
AFP/Maria Tan
Court resets arraignment on Rappler cyberlibel case
( - March 1, 2019 - 12:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Manila court has reset the arraignment of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos, Jr. on their cyberlibel case until a motion they filed to dismiss the case is resolved.

The court allowed the Department of Justice to comment on Ressa’s motion to quash, which challenges the Information or charge sheet against the accused and asks the court to junk the case.

The court reset the arraignment to April 12.

Ressa, Santos and Free Legal Assistance Group lawyers Chel Diokno and Theodore Te attended the hearing at Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 on Friday morning.

Te is a former spokesperson of the Supreme Court, while Diokno is running for senator under the Otso Diretso slate.

In an interview with reporters after the hearing and aired over CNN Philippines, Diokno pointed out that on Feb. 19, 2014, when Rappler “republished” the article that is central to the cyberlibel case, a Supreme Court temporary restraining order on the Cybcercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was in effect.

He explained that the landmark cybercrime law took effect in September 2012, but parties challenged its constitutionality before the SC, which later issued a temporary restraining order against its implementation.

“From October 2012 until April 2014, there was a TRO issued by the SC. The alleged republication came out in February 2014,” Diokno said.

READ: SC issues TRO on new cyber law | SC extends TRO on Cyber Law

“The republication allegedly happened when the law was subjected to a TRO, so we’re wondering where this case ever came from,” the lawyer said in a mix of Filipino and English.

Diokno said that this was contained in the motion to quash they filed before the court earlier this week.

In Ressa's motion to quash, the lawyers stressed that the TRO "lasted until April 22, 2014, when the Motions for Reconsideration in Disini [petition] were resolved by the Supreme Court with finality."

Manila RTC Judge Rainelda Estacio-Mendoza said in her order issued Friday that Ressa’s motion to quash would be deemed submitted for resolution when both parties have submitted their respective pleadings on the pending motion. — Kristine Joy Patag

EXPLAINER: A look at the cyber libel charge vs Rappler, Maria Ressa

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