Cyberlibel trial vs Ressa to proceed as court rejects dismissal plea
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
Cyberlibel trial vs Ressa to proceed as court rejects dismissal plea
Kristine Joy Patag ( - November 20, 2019 - 10:46am

MANILA, Philippines — The cyber libel trial against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and its former researcher will proceed as the Manila court handling the case junked their motion challenging the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence.

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 in a ruling dated November 15, but made public Wednesday, junked Ressa’s demurrer to evidence for lack of merit.

A demurrer to evidence is a legal challenge to the prosecution’s sufficiency evidence that, if granted, paves the way for the dismissal of the case halfway through the trial, without the presentation of defense’s evidence.

The court said the prosecution’s evidence is competent and sufficient to sustain Ressa and the news site’s former researcher Reynaldo Santos' indictment for cyberlibel.

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

The case emanated from a complaint filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng assailing an article, first published in May 2012.

The Department of Justice indicted Rappler, Ressa and Santos on cyber libel charges, despite the cybercrime law being signed four months after the publication of the story.

State prosecutors pointed out that the story was updated on Feb. 19, 2014, which puts it under the “multiple publication rule.”

Ressa and Santos, however, raised that there was no substantial change made in the article when it was updated in 2014, but the court said that their argument is “evidentiary in nature which the defense should prove during trial.”

“It now behooves upon all the accused to adduce evidence to controvert those presented by the prosecution in a full blown trial,” Manila RTC Branch 46 Presiding Judge Rainelda Estacio-Mendoza wrote.

The court set the presentation of the Rappler’s evidence on December 6.

Ressa and Rappler are also embroiled in a string of legal suits. They are facing charges of tax evasion, tax evasion chargesanti-dummy and violations of the Securities and Regulations code.

A Quezon City prosecutor had recently junked Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones’ libel complaint against Ressa and reporter Rambo Talabong for lack of probable cause.

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