Fact check: Rappler’s Ressa not behind bars, released on bail after sentencing


MANILA, Philippines — A vlogger has claimed that Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and her former staff, who are both out on bail after conviction, will be jailed for six years, after the Court of Appeal rejected their application for the quashing of their conviction.

CLAIM: Vlogger Sangkay Janjan TV released a vlog titled “BIlis ng Karma! May maghihimas ng rehas!” while referencing Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr.

EVALUATION: This is misleading.

FACTS: The case has not yet been concluded and the parties still have the right to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court.

What the message says

Along with the misleading headline, the vlogger then read Net 25’s social media post which read, “BREAKING: 6 years in prison for Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.”

He also claimed that Ressa “ran into” (binangga) a businessman Wilfredo Keng, and that the government had nothing to do with the matter.

“This is a businessman. Hindi kasama ang gobyerno natin and sa katotohanan ang is a lang mapanagot ng gobyerno natin, foreign owned dahil nabisto ng [Securities and Exchange Commission] it was funded by banyaga,” he continued, mixing up the cases the news site is dealing with.

“Ang bilis ng karma. Naku po, rehas ‘to,” he concluded.

Screenshot Philstar.com, July 14, 10:40 a.m.

What he left out

While the Court of Appeals denied Ressa and Santos’ appeal to overturn their cyber defamation convictions, the CA also amended their prison sentences.

The Manila court had sentenced them to a prison term ranging from six months and a day to six years, but the CA changed their sentence to a prison term of six months and a day to six years, eight months and 20 days – more than eight months and 20 days from the judgment of the court of first instance.

However, Ressa and Santos posted bond after their sentencing and are not jailed. They can also always file an appeal and take their case – considered the test case in the young anti-cybercrime law of 2012 – to the Supreme Court.

The CA relied on Sections 25 (Possible Punishments) and 9 (Serious Crimes, Less Serious Crimes and Lesser Crimes) to modify the prison sentence, while the lower court cited Section n ° 3326 which applies to offenses punishable by special laws without their own limitation periods.

At the CA level — and even at the Manila court level — the plaintiff has long been the Filipino people, not Wilfredo Keng, as the Justice Department has previously charged Ressa and Santos.

Government lawyers have sued Ressa and Santos in court, although the case stems from a complaint by Wilfredo Keng.

The SEC Rappler Inc. case faces different grounds than the cyberdefamation case against Ressa and Santos.

Essential context

In rejecting Ressa’s appeal, the CA also ruled that cyberdefamation suits could be filed for attacks on online articles up to 15 years after they were published.

In the Manila court’s decision that Ressa and Santos appealed, Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa said the offense was not yet statute-barred, citing Panaguiton Jr. v. Department of Justice that Law No. 3326 applies to offenses punishable by special statutes without their own statutes of limitations. . In this case, it was 12 years.

A statute of limitations is the maximum period set by law during which a legal action, such as the filing of a complaint, can be brought. Complaints can no longer be filed after this period.

But the CA quoting the CPR instead and said: “In view of the increase in the penalty by one degree in accordance with Article 6 of the Cybercrime Act, the penalty for cyberdefamation becomes afflictive and will become time-barred in 15 years old.

Why is it important?

Six days after its publication, the video already has 199,192 views and 1,444 comments.

We checked this to clarify that although Ressa and Santos were arrested in 2020, they should not yet be jailed as they have already paid and been granted post-conviction bail.

The vlogger also accused the news site of making fake news, an accusation leveled at Filipino media that has been used to discredit mainstream and legitimate news outlets.

This story is supported by the Philippine Fact-check Incubator, an Internews initiative to build the fact-checking capacity of news outlets in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts.

Philstar.com is also a founding partner of Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking project for the 2022 elections in the Philippines and an initiative of universities, civil society groups and the media to counter misinformation and provide the public verified information.

Want to learn more about our fact-checking initiative? Check out our FAQs here. Do you have a claim you want to verify? contact us at [email protected]


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