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European Parliament asks Duterte to drop charges against Ressa
Philippine journalist Maria Ressa (C) speaks during a press conference after attending the court's verdict promulgation in Manila on June 15, 2020. Ressa was convicted on June 15 of cyber libel and sentenced to prison in a case that watchdogs say marks a dangerous erosion of press freedom under President Rodrigo Duterte.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

European Parliament asks Duterte to drop charges against Ressa

(Philstar.com) - July 9, 2020 - 11:31am

MANILA, Philippines — Members of the European Parliament wrote to President Rodrigo Duterte to raise concerns on the conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on a cyber libel charge.

“We are concerned her conviction sends a strong message to journalists that critical reporting risks imprisonment,” the ten members of the media working group of the European Parliament said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines shared a copy of the letter on Thursday.

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa convicted Ressa and Santos on Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or cyber libel. The court sentenced Ressa and Santos to the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment ranging from six months and one day of prision correccional as minimum to six years of prision correccional as maximum.

Ressa and Santos are currently out on post-conviction bail, as they appeal the guilty verdict of the court.

The case emanated by a complaint filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng over an article published in May 2012, roughly four months before the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was instituted. Laws like this cannot be applied retroactively. The Justice department found probable cause to bring Ressa and Santos to court, asserting that the updated article fall under re-publication and puts it under the anti-cybercrime law — a theory that Ressa's legal team challenges in their appeal.

The legislative body of the European Union stated that the “conviction is part of an orchestrated campaign of legal harassment against Maria Ressa and Rappler.”

“We are worried her arrest shows that the law in the Philippines is used against journalists perceived as being critical of the authorities,” they added.

The regional bloc called on Duterte to "drop all charges against [Ressa and Santos], not oppose the appeal of her conviction in the cyberlibel case, and guarantee a free and independent press in the country."

Palace branded European Parliament's past resolutions as 'interference'

The European Parliament in the past issued a resolution calling on the Philippine government to release Sen. Leila de Lima, who was detained for drug-related charges. They claimed the case against the senator was “politically motivated” and called on the government to “end any further acts of harassment against her.”

The European Parliament also issued a resolution expressing concern on hugh number of killings linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

The Palace hit the regional bloc’s resolutions and called them an “interference” with the affairs of the Philippines.

Job-generating foreign direct investments from EU to Philippines stood at $250 million in the first quarter this year, up 437.9% year-on-year from $46.5 billion recorded in the same period in 2019. — Kristine Joy Patag with report from Ian Nicolas Cigaral

EUROPEAN UNION MARIA RESSA PRESS FREEDOM RODRIGO DUTERTE
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