Libel case pits Rappler CEO, businessman

Rappler Inc. CEO Maria Ressa answers reporters' question at the NBI. (PTV photo)

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and businessman Wilfredo Keng on Thursday said they are not backing down against each other in their libel case battle in court.

“We will not duck. We will not hide. We will hold the line,” declared Ressa in a radio interview after posting P100,000 bail before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 for her temporary liberty.

Ressa was arrested by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents Wednesday night over a libel complaint filed by Keng and she spent overnight at the NBI detention cell while her lawyer sought bail.

“While I am aware that this vindication is but the start of what may be a long and arduous process, I am committed to see this legal battle to the very end,” declared Keng in a statement issued to the media Thursday.

Keng’s libel complaint stemmed from a Rappler report in 2012 that he lent his SUV to then  Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“Upon seeing the libelous article and prior to resorting to judicial remedies, I tried to formally and informally communicate with Rappler in order to have the said article taken down, clear my name and restore my reputation, at least, to the extent possible given the fact that irreparable damage had already been done, multiplied a million-fold because Rappler’s website continues to be accessible by the whole world. In turn, Rappler, likewise through formal and informal channels, repeatedly promised me that they will take down the subject article, but never did. The libelous attacks remain posted on their website until now,” said Keng.

Keng added that Rappler attempted to mislead the public by releasing “news” that his complaint against them was purportedly “dismissed” by the NBI.

Ressa said the issue is not just about her and Rappler but about press freedom and the right “of every Filipino to the truth so we can hold the powerful to account.”

Meanwhile, Malacanang defended itself from Ressa’s insinuation that the libel case and her arrest was linked to President Rodrigo Duterte who had clashed with Rappler before for allegedly spreading fake news.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte does not interfere in decisions of the court.

“He is always outraged by any irregularity or any violation of law so he lets the court be,” said Panelo.

Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra assured Ressa that her constitutional and legal rights will be respected.

“I trust that the court will give her a fair trial, based solely on the facts and the law, and not on arguments ad hominem and emotional rhetorics,” said Guevarra.