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'TEST CASE FOR PHL LEGAL SYSTEM'

Businessman Wilfredo Keng welcomes Ressa arrest


The camp of Wilfredo Keng, the businessman who filed the cyber libel complaint against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, on Thursday welcomed the arrest of the journalist, noting that the case will test how the Philippine justice system will fare against an "irresponsible member of the media."

"I am deeply grateful that after the conduct of a lengthy, careful and meticulous investigation, the Department of Justice has categorically resolved to criminally charge Rappler, Inc., Maria Angelita Ressa and Reynaldo Santos, Jr. with cyber libel in court because of their publication of clearly defamatory statements against me through their online news platform, the penalty for which crime is imprisonment for a minimum of four years, two months and one day to a maximum of eight years," Keng said in a statement.

Keng said if Ressa, Santos and the whole Rappler would be left unaccountable, "example of immunity will be emulated and replicated and will destroy not just individual lives but our entire country."

"This story is not just about an ordinary suit filed by a private and hardworking citizen to clear his name," Keng said. "It is, in reality, a test case on the how the Philippine legal and judicial system will fare against the dangerous precedent that is being set by one reckless and irresponsible member of the media and of the online community."

Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested Ressa at Rappler headquarters late Wednesday afternoon over an article published by the news website in 2012.

Keng filed a cyber libel complaint against Ressa Santos for running the story—“CJ using SUVs of ‘controversial’ businessmen”— which supposedly linked the businessman to human trafficking as well as drug smuggling.

Keng said Rappler had never attempted to obtain his side regarding the story or to fact-check the "baseless attacks" against him, noting that the news website had destroyed his reputation as well as endangered his life.

"Against this kind of limitless harassment and wanton disregard for the rule of law, I was left with no other choice but to file a case and seek protection from our courts," Keng said.

"To date, the perpetrators have not once denied having published clear defamations against me but simply continue to hide behind a single claim: that unfortunately for me, I allegedly can no longer complain," he added.

Keng said it is already time to remember that the foundation of the country's independence, democracy and freedom was rooted on one simple truth that no one is above the law.

"As I pursue this case to its just conclusion, I pray that the dispensation of justice be lawful and swift in recognition of the global platform of the perpetrators, the length of time the libelous statements against me have remained available for the entire world to see, and other factors which exponentially threaten my life, limb, property, health, well-being and peace of mind," Keng said.

"I further hope to not just seek remedy and redress for myself and my family, but to move all other victims of cyber libel and cyber bullying to stand up and seek just and legal action," he added.

Rappler said efforts had been made so that Ressa can post bail before a Pasay night court, but the judge refused to accept the bail despite having the power to do so under Rule 114, Section 17 of the rules of the court.

Ressa had spent the night in detention at the NBI.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned Ressa's arrest, calling it a "shameless act of persecution by a bully government," and questioned the charge against her which, it said, was not yet in the law when the alleged offense was committed.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo has insisted that Ressa's arrest was not a form of harassment on freedom of expression, saying that the rule of law is reigning in the country.  —Anna Felicia Bajo/KBK, GMA News

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