Manila Court junks Rappler exec’s plea to dismiss cyberlibel raps

The Manila court trying the cyber libel case of embattled Rappler publisher Maria Ressa has denied, for lack of merit, a move by her counsels to dismiss the complaint filed against her by a local businessman.

In a 12-page order dated November 15, Judge Rainelda H. Estacio-Montesa of the Manila Regional Trial Court branch 46 said: “the demurrer to the prosecution’s evidence filed by all of the accused is hereby denied for lack of merit.”

The court set the next hearing on December 6 for the presentation of the defense’s evidence.

“At this point, the evidence for the prosecution is competent and sufficient to sustain the indictment for violation of Sec. 4 (C)(4) of Rep. Act No. 10175 against all the accused. It does not behoove upon all the accused to adduce evidence to controvert those presented by the prosecution in a full-blown trial,” the court said.

Businessman Wilfredo Keng filed cyber libel charges against Ressa and the online news outfit’s former writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. for naming him in a 2012 report as having lent his sports utility vehicle for the use of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was facing impeachment.

The court’s order cited the prosecution’s arguments opposing the demurrer that “the statements in the Rappler article are clearly defamatory as they unequivocally ascribe the commission on the crimes of murder, human trafficking, sale of illegal drugs and illegal smuggling.”

The imputations, the prosecution said: “certainly tend to dishonor or discredit him and his reputation.”

The judge also noted the prosecution’s argument that the court “should disregard any attempt made by the accused to explain that they were merely quoting an intelligence report which, it bears stressing, is unconfirmed.”

“The alleged intelligence report cited in the subject article is not only unverified, but it is also even clearly-non-existent,” the court said. (PNA)

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