Filipino businessman files new cyber libel complaint vs Ressa over a 2019 tweet

Businessman Wilfredo Keng and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa

RAPPLER co-founder and chief executive officer Maria Ressa faces yet another complaint filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng, just days after her cyber libel conviction.

The businessman — who was the same private complainant who sued Ressa and former Rappler staffer Reynaldo Santos Jr. — said he filed a separate cyber libel complaint on February 13, before the Makati City Office of the City Prosecutor, according to the digital news site in a report over the weekend.

The complaint was about Ressa’s Feb. 15, 2019 tweet wherein she attached screenshots of a 2002 article entitled “Influential businessman eyed in ex-councilor’s slay.”

“The foregoing images pertain to a Philippine Star article published in 2002. The said article maliciously imputes to my person the commission of various heinous crimes, without offering justifiable motive for the false allegation,” Keng said in his complaint affidavit before the Department of Justice.

“No less than the Philippine Star itself has taken down the very same article,” he added.

The Philippine Star took down its article due to Keng’s camp raising the “possibility of legal action.” The news outlet added that it wanted to be “prudent” because “the scope and bounds of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 are still unexplored.”

“In publishing the 2002 Philippine Star article in her Twitter account, the respondent has feloniously communicated the malicious imputations against me not only to her 350,000 Twitter followers, but to anyone who has access to the internet,” Keng said.

He added that he was advised by his counsel that Ressa’s tweet was a different publication, which makes her “liable for a new and separate offense, following the doctrine laid down by the Supreme Court.”

Keng said that he asked Ressa to delete the tweet, but the Rappler CEO refused to comply.

“The tweet itself makes reference verbatim to the Philippine Star news item which the Philippine Star has not recanted for being untrue but which it has taken down only due to threat of legal action against it,” the veteran journalist said, adding “It is protected expression under the Constitution and the law and your demand constitutes outright censorship.”

Ressa and Santos on June 15 were convicted of cyber libel by a Manila court.

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa found them guilty of violating Section 4(c)(4) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, or cyber libel, and sentenced them to the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment ranging from six months and one day as a minimum to up to six years.

The court allowed bail under the same bond. It also ordered Ressa and Santos to pay Keng P200,000 in moral damages and another P200,000 (a total of $7,900) in exemplary damages.

Keng in 2017 filed cyber libel charges against the two for naming him in an article as the owner of a sports utility vehicle (SUV) used by the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was then facing impeachment in 2012.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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