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NBI files cyber libel complaint against Rappler

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has filed a cyber libel complaint against online news site Rappler before the Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with an article published in 2012.

According to a complaint letter the NBI filed on Friday, March 2, and obtained by reporters on Thursday, the bureau recommended that former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr., who wrote the article, and chief executive officer Maria Ressa be prosecuted in a court of law.

Also recommended for prosecution are “Manuel Ayala,” “Nico Jose Nolledo,” “Glenda Gloria,” “James Bitanga,” “Felicia Atienza,” “Dan Alber De Padua,” and “Jose Maria Hofilena,” all identified by the NBI as “directors’ officers” of Rappler Incorporated.

The bureau has transmitted the findings of its Cybercrime Division to Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr. for preliminary investigation.

It was reported previously that the NBI was not filing a case against Rappler as the complainant, businessman Wilfredo Keng, failed to lodge a complaint within a year of the story’s publication.

Keng’s complaint was about a Rappler story—“CJ using SUVs of ‘controversial’ businessmen”—citing an intelligence report that links him to “human trafficking and drug smuggling.”

The story was first published in 2012 and updated in 2014.

In a counter-affidavit, Ressa said the one-year prescription period for libel had expired by the time Keng filed his complaint.

Santos, for his part, said the Cybercrime Law of 2012 was enacted four months after the news site published the report.

Unless otherwise stated, the retroactive application of a law is prohibited, according to Article 4 of the New Civil Code.

But the NBI complaint noted that Keng submitted a supplemental affidavit on February 28 this year, 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 noted that the article in question is still published online.

“Unlike published materials on print, defamatory statements online, such as those contained in the libelous article written and published by the subjects, is indubitably considered as a continuing crime until and unless the libelous article is removed or taken down,” the complaint said.

That the respondents did not remove the article from their website “may be construed as a tacit approval of the contents of the article, or even more, a direct validation or consent to the publication thereof,” it said. —VDS, GMA News