US State Departmen, EU, UN official ‘concerned’ about Ressa cyberlibel conviction
MANILA, Philippines — The US State Department and the European Union have joined global protests against the conviction for cyberlibel of CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. of the news site Rappler by a Manila trial court.
Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa of Branch 46 on Monday said Ressa and Santos violated the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 in quoting an intelligence report about businessman Wilfredo Keng.
Ressa and Santos remain out on bail but face imprisonment of up to six years.
Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the US State Department was “concerned” about the verdict and that a resolution, which “reinforces the US and Philippines’ long shared commitment to freedom of expression [and] of the press” was in order.
A new low
The European Union External Action meanwhile reminded the Philippines of the need to “uphold its international human rights obligations and protect and promote fundamental freedoms” provided under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that the country had ratified on Dec. 19, 1966.
UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye said the conviction was “a new low in the Philippines’ protection of freedom of expression” and questioned the “ability of an independent media to function” in the country.
The Philippine Embassy in Washington, however, dismissed the US State Department’s objections and called it a political attack “to denigrate the rule of law [in the country] and its equal application to all citizens.”
In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque warned that diplomatic ties between the United States and the Philippines could suffer another setback because of the US State Department’s “interference.”
In a televised interview on Wednesday, Roque also dismissed speculations that the guilty verdict was influenced by possible ties between the President and Keng, whose daughter was recently appointed to the Philippine Commission on Women, and between Duterte and Montesa, whose husband was appointed to the Makati Regional Trial Court in April.
“That would mean all decisions of the courts, just because the judge or the relative are appointees of the President, will be tainted. I think that’s unfair to the judicial system,” Roque said.
—With reports from Leila Salaverria and Krissy Aguilar
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