I hold the line with Maria Ressa et. al.

I stand with Maria Ressa , Rey Santos & Rappler . The guilty verdict vs. Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr. is an attack against us all because it sets a dangerous precedent for anyone with online content.

Anyone and everyone could be sued for cyber-libel for anything posted since the start of the internet and NOT just as far back as 12 years.

The day before the promulgation of the ludicrous cyber-libel case against Maria Ressa, former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr., I made my stand whatever the verdict would be.

“I support free speech and the constitutional right of the public to know .

Weaponising the law to stifle freedom of the press is not only unconstitutional but also unpatriotic . We must be worthy of our freedoms and fight if these are strangled.”

I shared this on my twitter account.

Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 issued her ruling on June 15, 2020. Guilty.

Decision – convicting Maria… by Noemi Lardizabal-Dado on Scribd

I felt shaken and devastated but this does not stop me from voicing out my stand.

I stand with Maria Ressa , Rey Santos & Rappler . The guilty verdict vs. Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr. is an attack against us all because it sets a dangerous precedent for anyone with online content.

Let me quote an excerpt from our joint statement with the Consortium on democracy & disinformation.

The decision was UNJUST, because the crux of the court’s reasoning was based on a falsehood. For the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which became law in September 2012, to apply to the Rappler story published four months before, in May 2012, the court had to resort to the legal doctrine of republication. The court said the “update” to the article made in February 2014 satisfied that doctrine. “The court considers the update a republication of the article.” But Rappler testified that it was only a mere correction of a misspelling: “evasion” had been spelled “evation.” Judge Estacio-Montesa sweeps this all away with an appalling display of ignorance: “the original article published on 29 May 2012 can no longer be found. Only the 19 February 2014 version presently exists and [is] accessible on the internet.” But this is false. In fact the original article can still be found, through resources such as the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, a long-standing repository of web pages. And sure enough, anyone—including Judge Estacio-Montesa, who lectures on cybercrimes—can find the original article there, where the word “evation” can be easily seen.

Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa is not aware that there is an archive of the original article with the “evation” mispelling.

“The decision also betrays a limited computer know-how when it stated that the original article that is subject of a libel complaint could no longer be found online and only the corrected version is available. The judge could have asked for the assistance of a computer literate student to easily call up the piece from internet archives.”, Women Writing Women Philippines said in their statement.

I agree with John Nery when he describes the ruling as “A nauseous verdict, an ignorant judge”. I hope the case can be appealed and new evidence will be presented.

Rappler issued a statement that “Today’s verdict sets a dangerous precedent not only for journalists but for everyone online. It weakens the ability of journalists to hold power to account as the one-year prescription period of libel is extended to 12 years. Even before the cybercrime law took effect, Filipino journalists and press freedom advocates had been pushing for the decriminalization of libel. This ruling, coupled with the cybercrime law, has made the space for a free press, free speech, and free expression even tighter and narrower.” Anyone and everyone will be affected.

Allow me to share some excerpts of the many statements from individuals and organizations:

“The decision basically affirms the State’s manipulation and weaponization of the law to stifle criticism and dissent, allowing the retroactive application of the law for a supposed offense committed before it existed by the simple expedience of declaring a typographical correction a “republication”, and recalibrating the prescription period for the offense.” National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

“This dangerous precedent (among others already set by the administration) puts not just media practitioners in danger of being charged with libel, but practically anyone who publishes anything online. The Court itself highlighted this in its decision by acknowledging that mere netizens “can be held accountable for any defamatory posts or comments in the internet.”” FMA denounces guilty verdict on Rappler’s Maria Ressa and Rey Santos Jr.

“It is time to decriminalize libel, whether online or offline, and take away the participation of the state in disagreements on speech. The state has no business aiding and abetting a private person’s demand for restitution for hurt feelings from another person’s expression, whether made offline or online. The Filipino people would be better served if the state promoted the protection of our constitutionally-guaranteed rights, and this protection must equally extend to our rights online as they should for our rights offline.”Democracy.Net.PH expresses its disappointment with the misapplication of the Cybercrime Prevention Act (RA 10175)

“Today’s conviction and sentencing of Maria Ressa of up to six years in jail is an outrageous crime against press freedom,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Although out on bail while she appeals the verdict, Ressa’s wrongful conviction sends a message to all journalists that you could be next if you report critically on President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.” Committee to Protect Journalists response to the guilty verdict in the cyber libel case against Rappler editor Maria Ressa in the Philippines

“It’s a menacing blow to press freedom in the Philippines and adds a new weapon in a growing legal arsenal against constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties in an Asian outpost of democracy. FOCAP journalists will press on with their courageous, fair, accurate and independent journalism.” Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines

“The government should reverse this alarming affront to justice and quash the convictions of Rappler’s Ressa and Santos,” Robertson said. “The prosecution was not just an attack on these individual journalists but also a frontal assault on freedom of the press that is critical to protect and preserve Philippines democracy.” Committee to Protect Journalists , In response to the guilty verdict in the cyber libel case against Rappler editor Maria Ressa in the Philippines.

“The verdict against Maria Ressa highlights the ability of the Philippines’ abusive leader to manipulate the laws to go after critical, well-respected media voices whatever the ultimate cost to the country,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Rappler case will reverberate not just in the Philippines, but in many countries that long considered the country a robust environment for media freedom.”Rappler Verdict a Blow to Media Freedom, Human Rights Watch Philippines

“We must not tire of reminding our government that they have a sworn duty to protect and preserve the democracy upon which a truly progressive and strong nation is founded.” , Free the Artist Movement

“The Women Writing Women joins the rest of the media community in condemning the guilty verdict and denouncing the acts of the Duterte administration to undermine press freedom, impair the practice of critical and independent media, and endanger the lives of journalists. We will continue to defend press freedom and hold the line.” , Women Writing Women Philippines

“We are dismayed by the verdict against one of the truly courageous journalists of our time and urge the Philippines to change its law which threatens the media and take immediate steps to stop the persecution of Maria and her colleague Reynaldo.”Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

” Ironic as it may sound, while the conviction seems to demand accountability from journalists on a supposed offense of cyber libel, the very decision itself removed the public’s opportunity to demand accountability from the greater and more powerful authority of government through the courageous press.” Reporters Without Borders

“Critical reporting is important in a democracy and the people should see the workings of the Duterte administration, warts and all. Any move to limit this basic freedom enshrined in the Constitution is an attack on freedom of speech.

We will not be cowed. We will continue to respect the people’s right to information. We will continue to fight for our democratic right to a free media.” Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines

““With this latest assault on independent media, the human rights record of the Philippines continues its free fall. It is time for the UN to urgently open an international investigation into the country’s human rights crisis, in line with the recent conclusions of the UN Human Rights office itself.” Amnesty International

“We are worried what kind of a precedent this sets for our equally endangered colleagues in the arts and culture sector, who may face a range of charges, simply for asserting and putting into practice our Constitutionally-protected right to speak out against injustice.”, Concerned Artists of the Philippines

“Philippines: Cyber-libel conviction of Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos a blow to freedom of expression and media online

JUNE 16, 2020
Today, the ICJ condemned the prosecution and conviction of journalists Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos, Jr. after the Manila Regional Trial Court found them guilty of cyber-libel for an article published on the news website Rappler. The ICJ called for the judgment to be reversed on appeal.

The ICJ also called on the Philippines to reform its laws to remove the possibility of criminal sanction for defamation and libel offenses, in line with its international legal obligations. The ICJ recalled that imprisonment for such offenses is never permissible.

“The guilty verdict is a new low for the Duterte administration, and adds to an atmosphere of intimidation that creates a chilling effect on online expression, especially for journalists seeking to hold the government to account,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director. “The conviction is not only a miscarriage of justice in this particular case; it also sets a terrible precedent for the use of criminal defamation laws to prosecute speech online in the Philippines and elsewhere in the region.” International Commission of Jurists (https://www.icj.org/philippines-cyber-libel-conviction-of-maria-ressa-and-reynaldo-santos-a-blow-to-freedom-of-expression-and-media-online/) (ICJ)

“If left unchallenged, the verdict would make oppression of press freedom and free expression the law of the land, and shatter the Bill of Rights guaranteed by the Constitution. It would render journalists and citizens defenseless against government and officials who will use anything and everything to evade accountability and to silence those who dare ask them questions.” Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity – LODI

To be updated