The appointment of Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa’s husband and complainant Wilfredo Keng’s daughter in the government does not affect the integrity of the verdict against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and a former researcher, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said .
“Not at all,” Roque said in an interview on ANC on Wednesday when asked on the matter.
“…Because that would be in all decisions of the courts—just because of judges or their relatives are appointees of the President—will be tainted. I think that is unfair for the judicial system,” Roque added.
In April, Montesa’s husband, Jacob Montesa II was one of the 51 judges appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte, as reported by the Manila Times.
Meanwhile, Keng’s daughter, Patricia Anne, was appointed as member of the Philippine Commission on Women for the youth sector in September 2019.
Roque said the President does not know personally those he appointed.
“The President appoints thousands and thousands of individuals. Not all of them are known. I know this because I am somehow privy on judicial appointments, the trial court appointments up to the CA (Court of Appeals),” he said.
“The President virtually does not know anyone anymore because when he was practicing, these people were not even born yet,” he said.
He added Duterte rely on the system where Presidential Management Staff will vet every candidate and then send it to him with the ranking already.
Roque also noted that judicial appointments are made pursuant to the recommendations from the Judicial and Bar Council. He said the President made the appointment but the process was shared with the council.
“His (Duterte) appointment is limited to the shortlisted individuals,” he said.
“Almost all the time, because these are very young lawyers already, the President had been appointing complete strangers. He has to rely on curriculum vitae. He has to rely on the vetting made by PMS,” he added.
On Monday, the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 found Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. guilty of cyber libel and sentenced them to six months and one day to up to six years in jail.
Judge Montesa handed down the ruling after less than a year of trial. The promulgation of judgment was initially scheduled for April.
In January 2019, government prosecutors indicted Ressa and Santos for cyber libel over a Rappler article in 2012 that cites an "intelligence report" linking Keng to human trafficking and drug smuggling.—AOL, GMA News