By Leslie Ann G. Aquino
For a Catholic priest, the conviction of Rappler’s chief executive officer Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. was an assault on press freedom.
“Its a brazen assault on the freedom of the press, a way of weaponizing our legal system to harrass the media,” Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines National Secretariat for Social Action Justice and Peace, said in an interview.
Benedictine nun Sister Mary John Mananzan was also saddened by the verdict.
“I am sad about it. It is a blow to press freedom and responsible journalism,” she said.
“I hope it will be overturned in the higher courts,” added Mananzan.
On Monday, a Manila Regional Trial Court found Ressa and Santos guilty of cyber libel which stemmed from the complaint filed by a businessman in 2017.
A labor group also slammed the decision.
“Today is another day of infamy for freedom of the press. The conviction of Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa and former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos should be seen as part of the Duterte Administration’s relentless campaign to silence political dissent,” Daniel L. Edralin, SENTRO Chairperson, said in a statement.