Ex-Rappler researcher posts P100,000 bail for cyber libel

MANILA, Philippines – Former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr posted a P100,000 bail before the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Friday, February 15, over a charge of cyber libel.

Santos, who has long resigned from Rappler, was the one who wrote the May 2012 story on the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona and his supposed links to businessman Wilfredo Keng. Keng filed the cyber libel complaint against Santos and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa only in October 2017.

“I stand by my article,” Santos said after posting bail on Friday. Santos resigned from Rappler in 2016.

Santos voluntarily presented himself before the Manila RTC Branch 46 on Friday, as law enforcement authorities did not serve a warrant on him.

“A warrant was issued but law enforcement was not able to serve it. Yes, he voluntarily paid,” said Santos’ lawyer RM Rañeses.

Manila RTC Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa issued the warrants of arrest against Santos and Ressa on February 12.

National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents arrested Ressa past office hours on Wednesday, February 13. Ressa posted her bail  the next morning after spending the night at the NBI.

Montesa processed Santos' bail and issued a release order before noon on Friday.

Asked why their agents did not arrest Santos, NBI Cybercrime Division Chief Victor Lorenzo said on Thursday, February 14: “At that time, wala siya doon eh (at that time, he was not there.)”

Lorenzo was referring to the Rappler office in Pasig, which was the address indicated on the warrant.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Santos and Ressa over a May 2012 article because according to its prosecutors, cyber libel only expires after 12 years, an interpertation that stretched the prescription period  from one year to 12 years.

The DOJ indictment was signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edwin Dayog and assistant state prosecutors Florencio Dela Cruz Jr and Jeanette Dacpano. It was approved by Acting Prosecutor General Richard Fadullon.

Although the article was published May 2012, or four months before the Cybercrime Law was enacted, the DOJ said that typographical edits made in February 2014 constituted republication.

Rappler lawyer JJ Disini has warned against the implication  of the DOJ interpretation on everyone who publishes content online. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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