Journalist Maria Ressa (front L) 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
Citing due process, court sends back securities case vs Rappler board
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - October 14, 2019 - 7:12pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 9 p.m.) — A Pasig court ordered a re-investigation into charges of violations of the Securities and Regulations Code against executives of online news site Rappler.

Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 159 Presiding Judge Elma Rafallo-Lingan ordered the suspension of proceedings and the remand of the case to the Office of the City Prosecutor in Pasig for the conduct of preliminary investigation.

Lingan also suspended proceedings on Anti-Dummy charges filed against the news site’s executives.

The court held that there was “undue haste” in the filing of criminal charges in the court and the accused’s rights to due process were violated.

Named as accused in the case are:

  • Maria Ressa, Rappler CEO
  • Glenda Gloria, managing editor
  • Manuel Ayala
  • Nico Jose Nolledo
  • Felica Atienza
  • James Velasquez

Rappler welcomed the development, saying through lawyer Francis Lim that the court order "keeps alive our hope in our judicial system."

"All that we need  for our cases are judges and justices who have the courage to decide them fairly. We are fervently hoping that the cases will be decided based solely on their merits so that truth and justice will prevail in the end," Lim also said.

The case

The Rappler board told the court that the Pasig City prosecutor's office filed the Information or charge sheet against them despite their manifestation that they intend to file a motion for reconsideration.

Others who were facing charges did not receive a copy of the OCP's resolution before the Information was filed in court.

They also argued that the National Bureau of Investigation, the complainant in the case, did not inform them that they were also facing raps on violations of the Securities and Regulations Code. They said they only knew about the probe into their alleged violations of the Anti-Dummy Act.

The court held that the accused are given 15 days to file their appeal or motion for reconsideration 15 days from receipt of resolution, as it is “part of due process in preliminary investigation.”

“Verily, the undue haste in transmittal of the records of the case to the Court for the filing of Information against the accused violates the accused’s right to due process, guaranteed under the Constitution,” the Court said.

It added: “When the accused were deprived of this right, there is a denial of the right to a full preliminary investigation preparatory to the filing of the Information.”

Bail reduced

The court also reduced the cash bail bonds against Ressa and Gloria following their appeal.

Ressa explained to the court that her finances were stretched thin due to posting of cash bonds in the string of cases filed against her, while Gloria implored the court to lower the amount in light of her financial ability as journalist.

Their bail is now at P63,000 from P126,000 each, while Ressa’s travel bond has been reduced to P50,0000 from P100,000.

MARIA RESSA NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION PASIG CITY RAPPLER
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