Rappler’s Chief Executive Officer Maria A. Ressa and the news outfit’s former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to reconsider its decision that affirmed their cyber libel conviction under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
They also challenged the increase in the prison term imposed by the CA in its decision that upheld the ruling of the Manila regional trial court (RTC) on June 15, 2020.
The CA, in a decision written by Associate Justice Roberto P. Quiroz with the concurrence of Associate Justices Ramon M. Bato Jr. and Germano Francisco D. Legaspi, ruled that instead of a prison term of only six months and one day as minimum to six years as maximum, Ressa and Santos should be jailed for a minimum of six months and one day to a maximum of six years, eight months and 20 days.
In their motion, Ressa – a Nobel Peace Prize Laurette—and Santos said the CA erred in modifying the prison term imposed on them.
“Without conceding the correctness of the appellants’ conviction and sentence in the present case, this modification to the penalty violates the appellants’ constitutional right and offends the judiciary’s standing practice in the imposition of penalties in libel cases,” they said.
They also pointed out that the period of prescription for cyber libel offense should be one year and not 15 years.
They said that under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), the prescription for libel and other similar offenses is one year.
The cyber libel complaint was based on a 2012 article written by Santos claiming that businessman Wilfredo Keng – the complainant — lent his sports utility vehicle to then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.
The same article also cited an intelligence report that Keng had been under surveillance by the National Security Council for alleged involvement in human trafficking and drug smuggling.
Keng filed the complaint in 2017. He was quoted as saying that he was forced to seek legal vindication after his efforts for Rappler to rectify the published article became futile.