Rappler CEO Maria Ressa will be spending the night in detention at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after her team was unable to post bail after her arrest on cyber libel charges on Wednesday.
The news company claimed that the judge refused to accept the bail.
"Efforts were made for Ressa to post bail tonight at the Pasay night court," Rappler said. "Unfortunately, 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]."
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had earlier said that Ressa would be able to post bail at any time.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) chief also maintained that no journalist will be harassed by baseless accusations under his watch.
Ressa was arrested by the NBI at Rappler headquarters late Wednesday afternoon over an article published by the news website in 2012.
The subject of the article, businessman Wilfredo Keng, filed a cyber libel complaint against Ressa and former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos for running the story—“CJ using SUVs of ‘controversial’ businessmen”— which supposedly linked him to human trafficking and drug smuggling.
Acting on Keng's complaint, the NBI transmitted its findings to the DOJ, which indicted Ressa and Santos for violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 last month.
The arrest warrant was issued by Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 on Tuesday.
GMA News' Katrina Son reported past 10 p.m. that Ressa underwent medical proceedings before going into detention.
Rappler Ceo Maria Ressa sumailalim na sa medical procedure. Magpapalipas din sya ng gabi dito sa NBI matapos arestuhin ng mga kawani ng NBI Cybercrime Division. pic.twitter.com/JTKk1DpQ98— Katrina Son (@iamKatrinaSon) February 13, 2019
Upon her arrival at the NBI building, Ressa described her arrest as a "travesty of justice."
She also remarked that the case was "ridiculous" while the timing was "questionable" and "suspicious."
In an interview on ANC, presidential legal counsel and spokesperson Salvador Panelo insisted that Ressa's arrest is not an attack on freedom of expression.
"The charge is facts-based and the DOJ prosecutors gave her all the opportunity to defend herself and it found out there is probable cause and even the court agrees with it," he said.
Opposition figures and local and international organizations, however, condemned the arrest.
It "belies all pretense of upholding press freedom by an administration that has from the get-go shown its abhorrence of an independent and critical press," said Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) executive director Tess Bacalla, while Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers said the arrest was an "attack on press freedom and speech."
Human rights lawyer and senatorial candidate Chel Diokno called out the Duterte administration 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.
Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Asia Division researcher Carlos Conde, meanwhile, called the arrest a "clear" attempt to humiliate Ressa, "with the ultimate aim of shutting down the news website for its coverage of the brutal 'drug war' that has killed thousands of Filipinos."
Senator Francis Pangilinan, president of the opposition Liberal Party, called on Filipinos to protest Ressa's arrest and tell the authorities they stand for truth, justice and free expression.
"Inuunti-unti at dinadahan-dahan ang bawat institusyong maaaring tumindig laban sa pang-aabuso ng kapangyarihan. Kailangang palagan ito—bawat pulgada, bawat hakbang na may nangyayaring ganito, kailangan nating magsalita, magbuklod, sabihin sa mga nasa poder," Pangilinan said. — Margaret Claire Layug/BM, GMA News