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MARIA RESSA ARREST

No crime without law, Otso Diretso bets say; Colmenares cries harassment


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Otso Diretso senatorial candidates railed against the arrest of Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa on Wednesday for cyber libel over an article published on the news website in 2012.

Chel Diokno, Florin Hilbay, Gary Alejano and Erin Tañada joined journalists and press groups in sounding alarm over what they called was suppression of critical media .

In a statement, Diokno called out the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte for its "heavy-handed attempt" to put the journalist behind bars.

"Hindi na kayo nakuntento sa dami ng trolls ninyo, gusto ninyo pang sakupin ang usapan sa cyberspace. Hindi ba kayo nagsasawa sa dami ng institusyon ng bayan na walang pakundangan ninyong sinisira?" Diokno said.

"Hindi ba kayo nahihiya na kung sino pa ang dapat nagsisilbi ay siya pang nangunguna sa pang-aabuso sa kapuwa Pilipino?" he added.

Tañada, on the other hand, voiced his protest on Facebook.

"The arrest of Maria Ressa proves how the present government has no space for a free press," Tañada wrote.

"There is no basis for her arrest because the crime she is accused to have committed was not a crime because there was no cyber law at the time. “When there is no law, there is no crime,” he added.

The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, officially recorded as Republic Act No. 10175, became a law on September 12, 2012, or several months after the alleged libelous Rappler article was published.

In a separate statement, Hilbay said "outrageous" is too light a word to describe the arrest Ressa.

"Nakakagalit, nakakapanlumo. Tahasan na ang ginagawang pananakot sa matatapang na boses ng katotohanan laban sa kasinungalingan ng gobyerno," he said.

"Naninindigan ako kasama ng mga mamamahayag na tinatakot ng pamahalaan. Bilang isang guro ng batas sa napakatagal na panahon, klarong-klaro ang kamalian sa pag aresto kay Maria Ressa," Hilbay added.

Senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna said the manner and timing of arrest displayed harassment.

"If Maria Ressa and Rappler were all praises for the government, she would not have been arrested this way. The DOJ might have even dismissed the complaint against her," Colmenares said.

Alejano called the arrest a "clear brazen attack on press freedom."  He also said that the case had no legal basis.

"Hindi maituturing na krimen ang isang gawain kung wala itong legal na basehan. Malinaw ang ating Konstitusyon at mga batas ukol dito. Kung babaluktutin ito ng ating gobyerno, paano magtitiwala ang taumbayan sa ating mga institusyon kung mismong ang katwiran ng batas ay binabali upang mapatahimik ang pumupuna sa mga pagkukulang at pagkakamali ng gobyerno?" he said.

Alejano said the attack against members of the media is a sign of a weakening democracy.

"Ang pag-atake sa mga mamamahayag ay isang senyales ng panghihina ng demokrasya sa bansa. Ito ay isang matinding hamon para sa nagtataguyod at nagtatanggol ng katotohanan at katarungan sa ating bayan. Huwag tayong matakot magpahayag ng katotohanan para sa ating malayang kinabukasan," Alejano said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party,  called the incident as a "clear case of the powerful harassing those whose duty is to keep them in check."

"Like our partymate Sen. Leila de Lima before her, Maria Ressa now stands as a beacon of speaking truth to power, and upholding the very principles that make us a modern, democratic nation," he said.

"Inuunti-unti at dinadahan-dahan ang bawat institusyong maaaring tumindig laban sa pang-aabuso ng kapangyarihan. Kailangang palagan ito. ...Kailangan nating gumuhit at sabihing nasa panig tayo ng katotohanan at katarungan," Pangilinan added. —LDF, GMA News

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