If you asked lawyers Leni Robredo and Erin Tañada on the cyberlibel case versus Maria Ressa of Rappler, their best legal defense is no law, no crime!”
I was sure that you’d already read a lot about the Maria Ressa cyberlibel saga online, but to those who just emerged from their cave, here’s the excerpt of the FB post of Reyna Elena aka Edwin Jamora explaining the cyberlibel case filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng.
Rappler posted an article on May 2012 where they alleged that CJ Corona used an SUV owned by Wilfredo Keng during his impeachment trial. Mr. Keng Sued because the story maliciously imputed that he is engaged in human trafficking and illegal drugs.
Accordingly, Mr. King requested that they take down the wrong story. Instead, Rappler updated the story in February 2014 when the Cyberlibel Law was already in effect, and the DOJ found probable cause against Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santo, Jr.
The likes of Robredo and Tanada believed that since the Cyberlibel law was not yet passed at that time the libelous article was published online, therefore, there was no crime.
Are they correct?
That’s a BIG NO says Cebuano lawyer Bruce Rivera.
In a Facebook post, Rivera remarked that lawyers Robredo and Tañada should have known better, being politicians not to make statement like, “the arrest of Maria Ressa is an attack on press freedom because there is no law if there is no crime.”
As lawyers, Rivera said that they should know the substantial distinction between newspaper and online news. For example, today’s news will be cover of our favorite ‘daing’ in the public market while online news stays in the cloud (server) forever.
As Reyna explained above, the first online posting of the article was May 2012, while the cybercrime law took effect on September 2012.
Rivera agreed that the argument of “actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea” or there is no law if there is no crime punishing it can or may be used as a defense.
BUT, when the libelous article modified in 2014 despite the request of Mr. Keng to have the article taken down, new information was added or developing stories bookmarked for reference, that argument cannot be used as a defense.
For argument’s sake, the law has another interpretation than the one put forward by the DOJ, Rivera said it would take an SC decision to invalidate this interpretation. but before it can do so, there is the presumption of regularity which upholds the issuance of the warrant of arrest.
Creating the picture Maria Ressa’s arrest is an attack on press freedom is WRONG.
Rivera went on to remind the public, particularly members of the media, that press freedom does not mean unchecked license to demean a private citizen, press freedom also means protecting the people from the excesses of the press.
Otherwise, protecting a few abusive but popular members of the press, we have become enablers of oppression.
Rivera ended the FB post saying that politicians who fail to see that especially if they are lawyers do not deserve to be in public office.
You may read the full post below.
PRESS FREEDOM OR ENABLERS?
Lawyers like Robredo and Erin Tañada who has entered politics should know better before opening their mouth and defending Maria Ressa and saying her arrest is an attack on press freedom because there is no law if there is no crime.
As lawyers, we should know that there is a substantial distinction between newspaper from online news. The headlines in today’s news will be cover for tomorrow’s daing na gallungong or kamatis we buy in the public market. What we post in the internet, is in the cloud forever. If you type my name and search me in Google, the first thing you will see are the negative things about me.
Yes, the initial posting was May 2012 and the Cybercrime Law took effect on Sept. 2012 and thus the argument of “actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea” or there is no law if there is no crime punishing it can or may be used as a defense.
BUT, the same article was modified in 2014 and new information was added or developing stories bookmarked for reference, then that becomes covered by the law because it is tantamount to a republishing of the article and thus, covered by the law.
Assuming arguendo, the law has another interpretation than the one posited by the DOJ, it takes an SC decision to invalidate this interpretation but before it can do so, there is the presumption of regularity which upholds the issuance of the warrant of arrest.
To create a picture that Ressa’s arrest is an attack on press freedom is WRONG. Press freedom does not mean unbridled license to demean an ordinary person and continue to do so because everything stays in the internet. Press freedom also means protecting the people from the excesses of the press. If we protect a few abusive but popular members of the press, we have become enablers of oppression. There can only be a chilling effect if the law arrests someone who has done nothing but only criticize the President. Nobody is exempt from libel or tax laws just because she is Ressa. If she insists on press freedom, takes a political hardline stance and trample on ordinary citizens, she ceases to be an innocent bystander just reporting the “reality” on the ground but a ruthless criminal who took advantage of her power and platform.
And politicians who fail to see that especially if they are lawyers do not deserve to be in public office.