The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 has postponed the arraignment of Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa and a former reporter for cyber libel while their motion to dismiss the charge is pending and to reset the date of the arraignment to April 12, according to an order by Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa.Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr., the former Rappler researcher who wrote the allegedly libelous story in question, appeared in court Friday morning. Both remain free on bail.
Represented by the Free Legal Assistance Group, the two asked the court to quash the cyber libel charge before the case goes to trial on several grounds, including what they said was the government’s wrongful application of the “multiple republication” principle to the case.The Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Ressa and Santos for the February 2014 “republication” of a story originally posted on Rappler in May 2012, months before the Cybercrime Prevention Act took effect.
The article mentions an “intelligence report” linking businessman Wilfredo Keng, the private complainant who initiated proceedings against Rappler at the National Bureau of Investigation in 2017, to human trafficking and drug smuggling.However, according to the defense, the update of the story that the DOJ anchored its case on merely corrected a typographical error in the original publication.
The court required the prosecution to comment on Ressa and Santos’ motion to quash within 10 days, the defense to file their reply five days after that, and the prosecution to submit a rejoinder to the reply five days after. Furthermore, expecting the last pleading concerning the motion to quash to be in by March 25, after which the motion will be deemed submitted for resolution.