Rappler asks DOJ to dismiss cyber libel raps

MANILAOfficials of Rappler Holdings Corp. on Wednesday asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to dismiss the cyber libel complaint filed against them regarding a published article about businessman Wilfredo Keng in 2012.

Rappler Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa denied the allegations in the counter-affidavit that she subscribed before the DOJ, which was submitted by her lawyers during the preliminary investigation conducted by Senior State Prosecutor Edwin Dayog on Wednesday.

The respondents were accused of committing libel under Section 4, paragraph (c), sub-paragraph (4) of Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Ressa argued that she cannot be accused of cyber libel because the cybercrime law was not yet in effect when the story was published on May 29, 2012.

The Cybercrime Law was approved on Sept. 12, 2012, and took effect only on Oct. 3, 2012, or 15 days after the law was published as required by law. The law took effect more than four months after the story was published.

She said that as executive editor and CEO, she manages "the technical and commercial aspects of our business" and "most articles posted by our journalists are not subject to my review."

"For a person to be guilty of a crime, he must commit that crime himself or he must, in some manner, participate in its commission or in the fruits thereof. In this case, I did not in any manner participate in the writing, editing, or publishing of the alleged libelous article," read her counter-affidavit.

Also named as respondents were former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr., who wrote the article in question, and directors and officers Manuel Ayala, Nico Jose Nolledo, Glenda Gloria, James Bitanga, Felicia Atienza, Dan Alber de Padua, and Jose Maria G. Hofilena.

Santos and de Padua also appeared in the hearing and submitted their counter-affidavits.

Bitanga, Ayala, Nolledo, Gloria, Atienza and Hofilena have also sought the dismissal of the complaint for lack of probable cause.

The complaint was filed by Keng for violation of the Cybercrime Law for the article, "CJ using SUVs of 'controversial' businessmen" that Santos wrote and that Rappler published on May 29, 2012.

Rappler reported that the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was then facing an impeachment trial, had been using a black SUV whose plate number was allegedly issued to Keng.

The news website also reported about Keng's alleged involvement in human trafficking and smuggling.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said Keng submitted a supplemental affidavit last Feb. 28, in which he alleged, citing jurisprudence, "that the prescriptive period for crimes falling under Section 4(c)(4) (of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012) is 15 years."

According to the NBI, Keng said the article still appears online.

The NBI is also conducting a probe into the possible criminal liabilities of the executives of Rappler's online news website for supposedly violating the constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of mass media.

Source: Philippine News Agency