In this file photo taken on Feb. 13, 2019, Rappler CEO and high-profile journalist Maria Ressa stayed overnight at the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Manila after the bureau's agents arrested her for a cyberlibel charge. She posted bail the following day.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman
Rappler's Ressa, ex-researcher arraignment over cyberlibel charge to proceed
Kristine Joy Patag ( - April 15, 2019 - 11:18am

MANILA, Philippines — The cyberlibel case against Rappler CEO and high-profile journalist Maria Ressa would proceed as the Manila court junked her plea to quash for lack of merit.

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 Presiding Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa junked Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos’ motion due to lack of merit.

The arraignment would proceed on April 16 in the morning.

This would be Ressa’s second arraignment in the string of legal suits the government filed against her.

Halt order against implementation only

Ressa, in her motion to quash, raised that the landmark cybercrime law took effect in September 2012, but its constitutionality was challenged 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,” rights lawyer Chel Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group said last March 1.

Diokno, also a senatorial candidate, is representing Ressa in the case.

But the court stressed that the halt order is only against the implementation of RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

“The TRO merely suspends the implementation and enforcement of RA 10175, so that crimes committed during the said period cannot be prosecuted. However, it did not suspend its effectivity,” the court held.

“So while the crimes committed during the said period cannot be prosecuted during the effectivity of the TRO, they may be prosecuted after the lifting of the same just like what is done in this case,” the court added.

Prescriptive period

The Manila court also held that the prescription has yet to set in in the case against Ressa and Santos.

Rappler Inc., Ressa and Santos are facing cyberlibel charges over a 2012 article that was republished in 2014.

Businessman Wilfredo Keng filed the complaint before the National Bureau of Investigation only in October 2017 which was five years since the original publication of the alleged libelous article.

The accused argued that the filing is beyond the prescription period, but the court held: “A painstaking review of RA No. 10175 reveals that it does not provide for its own prescriptive period, thus the provisions of Act No. 3326 is controlling.”

Act No. 3326 refers to the establishment of periods of prescription.

The court said that RA 10175 did not provide a specific penalty for the violation but a provision of the act stated that it must be “one degree higher than that prescribed under the Revised Penal Code for ordinary libel.”

“Considering that one degree higher of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods is prision correccional in its maximum period and prisiion mayor in its minimum period or 4 years, 2 months and 1 day to 8 years, the offense shall prescribe after 12 years following the provision of Section 1 of Article 3326,” the court said.

“Considering that all the essential elements of the offense as defined under RA 10175, were sufficiently established in the Information, the allegations contained therein, indeed, constitute an offense,” the court also held.

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