Keng: Libel case vs. Rappler a ‘private,’ ‘personal’ matter

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By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter

BUSINESSMAN Wilfredo D. Keng in a new statement on Friday maintained that the cyber libel case he filed against online news site Rappler and its CEO Maria A. Ressa is “a private criminal action” and “my personal fight to vindicate my name against the acts of an unethical and irresponsible few.”

“In what may be an ingenious attempt to divert attention away from this singular legal issue, Rappler and Ressa intentionally and wrongfully lump my case together with all other cases that have been filed against them,” he said.

“They falsely place me against the side of press freedom. They posture all such cases, including mine, as alleged concerted silencing maneuvers by the government,” he said, adding that they demean the legal remedy he sought and called it “preposterous and baseless,” an “attempt to intimidate,” “black propaganda,” and “lies.”

“My case does not tackle state suppression of policy criticism or of free expression of sentiment. That being said, its filing and progression do not impinge in any way on freedom of speech and of the press, freedoms which I fully believe in and support,” Mr. Keng added.

Ms. Ressa was arrested for cyber libel on Feb. 13 and was detained overnight at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) but was able to post P100,000 bail the next day at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 which issued the arrest warrant.

Former researcher Reynaldo Santos, Jr. also posted bail on Feb. 15, according to the NBI Cybercrime Division chief Victor V. Lorenzo.

Rappler, Ms. Ressa, and Mr. Santos were indicted by the Department of Justice on Dec. 10 last year for cyber libel over an article on May 29, 2012, four months before the Cybercrime Prevention Act was signed into law, which reported Mr. Keng as being linked to illegal activities and also as the alleged owner of a car used by then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

Ms. Ressa told reporters after posting bail that her arrest is an “abuse of power and weaponization of the law.”

“This isn’t just about, and it’s not just about Rappler. The message the government sending is very clear. And someone actually told our reporter this last night, ‘Be silent or you’re next.’ So I’m saying and appealing to you not to be silent even if and especially if you’re next.”

Ms. Ressa’s arrest also prompted outrage from various local and foreign organizations, institutions, and personalities.

Mr. Keng also said he will continue to pursue his case. “I will continue this criminal case against Rappler and Ressa, and am currently exploring all other cases that can be filed against them,” he said.

“I know that I am going up against an extraordinary and powerful accused, supported by politicians, foreign organizations and international outfits. With their combined machinery, they can act as critic, influencer and judge all at the same time. I know that there is a possibility that I may lose,” he added.