This file photo taken on Jan. 15, 2018 shows employees of online portal Rappler working at the company's editorial office in Manila. Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and Rappler’s former reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr. are facing a cyberlibel charge over a May 2012 article.
AFP/Ted Aljibe, file
One less legal suit vs Rappler as prosecutor junks DAR chief's libel rap
Kristine Joy Patag ( - November 19, 2019 - 5:36pm

MANILA, Philippines —  A Quezon City prosecutor has junked a former Department of Interior and Local Government official's libel complaint against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and reporter Rambo Talabong for lack of probable cause.

The junking of the complaint means Rappler is facing one less legal problem, although it still faces a string of tax evasion charges, cyberlibel, anti-dummy and violations of the Securities and Regulations code.

In 2017, John Castriciones, since appointed Agrarian Reform secretary, filed a libel complaint against Ressa and Talabong over the article, “DILG asks Malacañang to decide fate of 3 ‘floating’ execs soon.”

The former DILG undersecretary said the story “conveys” that he was put on “floating status” due to a corruption rap, despite there being no complaint filed against him.

There was, however, a “confidential memorandum” that discussed alleged “wrongdoings” of the undersecretaries, that was noted in a The STAR report that the prosecutor pointed out.

Assistant City Prosecutor Arnel Pabellar pointed out that the statements posted on the online website “are not in itself defamatatory.”

Pabellar also said that the reporter “merely summarized the contents of the ‘confidential memo to the president’ without any remarks or comment.”

“It is a fair and true report within the context of Paragraph 2, Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code,” the resolution further read.

Citing Yabut and Tamargo vs Office of the Ombudsman and Doran, the prosecution stressed: “A public official, more especially an elected one, should not be onion skinned... He is looked upon to set an example of how public official should correctly conduct themselves even in the face of extreme provocation.”

Journalists' groups and freedom of expression advocates have long been calling for the decriminalization of libel, saying it is outdated and restricts free speech

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