Makati court inhibits from handling Maria Ressa's 2nd cyber libel case

A Makati court has inhibited from handling the second cyber libel case filed against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa after supposedly receiving a threatening e-mail.

In an order dated January 5, Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 147 Acting Presiding Judge Amifaith Fider-Reyes inhibited from the case after the court supposedly received on December 4, 2020 a message from an e-mail address

The e-mail contained a message asking the judge to "junk the case" filed against Ressa, saying it was "moot" and already "junked by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation)."

"Ang tagal na din ng article nay an wala bas yang karapatan magpahayag ng saloobin nya? Please, ngayon lang. Kasi kung hindi patawad po talaga. Ngayon pa lang ako makakapatay ng tao, hahagilapin ko kayo. Salamat po (The article was written long ago already. Does she (Ressa) have no right to express her sentiments? Please, junk it, even just for now. Because if not, please forgive me but I may for the first time kill someone. I will hunt you. Thank you)," the message read.

The same user once again sent on December 24 another e-mail, thanking the judge for giving Ressa "relief" through her to travel abroad. The user even greeted the judge a merry Christmas.

Invoking one of the rules of court which grants a judge to disqualify himself from sitting in a case, Judge Fider-Reyes in the order said the inhibition from the case was made "to avoid the impression that the decisions of this Judge are influenced or affected by the correspondence received from this e-mail address."

"The Judge finds just reasons to inhibit from this case," the order read.

The order also said that "whoever is responsible for this e-mail is severely reprimanded for the lack of respect to the judicial process."

Not a supporter

Meanwhile, in a statement, Ressa expressed doubts that the message came from her supporter.

"Anyone who knows me knows that I would never condone nor tolerate attempts to manipulate the rule of law," she said.

Ressa said that she is also calling out such acts "every day despite the impunity we see around us."

"Having received hate messages and death threats myself, I condemn anyone who would do this and empathize with those who have to deal with it," she added.

According to the order of Judge Fider-Reyes, Ressa's case will be sent to the office of the executive judge "for immediate raffle to the trial judge."