Manila court allows Rappler to seek dismissal of cyber libel case

 

MANILA, Philippines – The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46 has allowed Rappler and its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Maria Ressa to seek an outright dismissal of their cyber libel case.

Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa on Tuesday, October 8, granted Rappler's motion for leave to file a demurrer to evidence, which is asking the court's permission to file the demurrer itself.

The demurrer to evidence is a pleading filed by the defense to seek the dismissal of the charges without presenting its own evidence; a pleading so serious it needs the leave of court or the permission of the court to be filed. 

If the demurrer itself is granted, the case is over.

"Finding the merit in the said motion, the same is hereby granted," said Judge Montesa.

The camp of complainant Wilfredo Keng said presented to the court all the needed evidence to support its case.

"For us we believe that we are able to establish all elements of the crime, in a criminal prosecution of any crime, including libel, all you need to do is to establish all elements of the crime," said Keng's lawyer, Joseph Banguis.

"We were able to present all evidence necessary, testimonial and documentary evidence," he added.

 The Keng camp presented a person who testified to reading the article on the website, which is to establish the element of publication and Keng himself to establish the element of defamatory imputation.

"The only ground really is that they haven't proven their case; that's the only ground," said Rappler's lawyer Ted Te.

Rappler is given 10 days to file its demurrer, and Keng's camp is given another 10 days to reply to the demurrer after which the motion it is submitted to the judge for resolution.

If the demurrer is denied, Rappler will start presenting its evidence on December 6. It plans to put its journalists on the witness stand.

Cyber libel case

The case arose from an article written by co-accused Reynaldo Santos Jr and published on Rappler in May 2012, linking the late former chief justice Renato Corona to Keng.

The case was filed before the Manila court in February, and started trial in July. The prosecution finished its presentation in September.

While the article was published in 2012, the complaint was only lodged in 2017, ordinarily way beyond the one-year prescriptive period of ordinary libel in the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

To be able to charge Ressa and Santos, the DOJ extended the period during which an individual can file a cyber libel complaint to 12 years after publication. Under Article 355 RPC,  “the crime of libel or other similar offenses shall prescribe in one year.” – 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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