Rappler CEO out on bail

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Maria Ressa was earlier detained at the conference room of the National Bureau of Investigation's Anti-Cybercrime Division after failed attempts to post bail.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 14) —  Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa is out on bail Thursday after her detention for a cyber libel case.

The bail was set at ₱100,000. A release order was issued shortly after.

Ressa was arrested after the Manila Regional Trial Court 46 issued a warrant of arrest against her for a cyberlibel case involving a story published on their online news platform May 2012, months before the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was passed.

The Rappler executive was detained overnight at the conference room of the National Bureau of Investigation's Anti-Cybercrime Division after failed attempts to post bail. She was nabbed by authorities past 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The Pasay City court did not allow her to post bail, citing jurisdictional reasons.

In an interview on CNN Philippines' News Night, Ressa claimed that there were "so many" irregularities in the arrest warrant.

"Look again at the circumstance of this case, they came in at after 5 pm knowing that the regular courts are out. We know because we been keeping track off where we can post bail we knew there was a court that was open until 9 pm and the lawyers were there by 7 pm, ready to post bail," she said.

According to her, the NBI agents who served the arrest warrant "neglected" to inform her that they lacked "complete documentation."

"They had the arrest warrant, but they didn't have the information sheet which actually [tells] you how much bail could be set," Ressa explained.

"If there was no malicious intent to keep me in detention last night, I have the right to bail on this charge--that is a right," she added.

However, Victor Lorenzo--National Bureau of Investigation Cyber Crime Division executive officer--maintained that the agents were "just following court order" when they issued the arrest warrant.

"It was not our intention na hindi [sya] makapagpyansa," Victor said during an interview on the same CNN Philippines program, adding that the NBI issues an arrest warrant "regardless of time."

"After we received the instruction to serve the warrant, we just immediately went to the office of Rappler. It just so happened that Ressa was there," he said.

In an earlier interview on CNN Philippines' Balitaan, the veteran journalist said it was the sixth time posted bail.

"This now is my sixth, sixth time that I post bail and I will pay more bail than convicted criminals, traditional, I will pay more bail than Imelda Marcos," Ressa earlier told reporters.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the arrest should have come as no surprise to Ressa and her legal counsel.

"Ms. Ressa's arrest is something that she and her counsel should have anticipated and preempted with the simple posting of a bail bond. The information for cyber libel was filed in court nearly two weeks ago, an arrest warrant would issue as a matter of course," Guevarra said in a statement.

"This is all part of procedure; the court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused through his/her voluntary appearance or through the coercive process of arrest," the Secretary added.

Guevarra maintained that the cyberlibel and tax evasion cases against Ressa "have nothing to do with press freedom."

He assured that the veteran journalist "will be given full opportunity to be heard and to defend herself before a court of law."

Guevarra had earlier said Ressa's arrest was all part of procedure, adding that she could have avoided detention if she posted a bail bond.

Ressa however, said these are the actions of Guevarra's department.

"You don't want to be known as the Secretary of Injustice," said Ressa in her message to the Justice chief.

Her lawyer, JJ Disini, said aside from posting bail, they will file a motion to nullify the case against Ressa.

Disini said they will question the Pasay City court's denial of posting bail  and the incomplete arrest warrant which did not indicate how much bail is required.

Rappler said no arrest warrant was issued against their former researcher and reporter Reynaldo Santos, who wrote the article in question: a story about businessman Wilfredo Keng and his alleged ties with then-Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Ressa said the NBI dismissed Keng's complaint, but the Department of Justice ruled in Keng's favor amid Rappler's supposed update of the article in 2014.

The online news site insisted the update was a mechanical error.

"In this particular case, the so-called republication was a correction of a punctuation mark or an addition of a punctuation mark which did not affect the meaning no of the original quote," Disini said.

Outside the NBI Headquarters Wednesday evening, protesters in support of Ressa gathered to denounce her detention.

What is cyberlibel?

Ressa's case falls under Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Cyberlibel is among the criminal offenses punishable under the measure, which was enacted in September 2012. It is similar to ordinary libel offenses punishable under the revised penal code, except that the cyber counterpart is done on the internet instead of print.

"Kung ang kanyang defamation, pag-defame ng tao or pag-discredit ng tao eh ginawa niya through the computer system or similar technology, ay maliwanag 'yang cyberlibel," UST College of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina said.

[Translation: If the defamation or discredit was done through the computer system, that is clearly cyberlibel.]

Libel based on printed articles carries a penalty of six months to four years of imprisonment while libel committed online can lead to six to 10 years of detention.

"Kung ia-apply 'yung revised penal code, tama, one year from publication. Pero may tinatawag kasi na continuing crime. 'Pag continuing crime let's say na-retweet? Na-email, na-re-email.. then di mo alam kelan matatapos ang prescriptive period, diba?" he said.

[Translation: If we apply the revised penal code, yes it is appropriate--one year from publication. However, we have what we call continuing crime. Let's say it was retweeted or re-emailed, you don't know when the prescriptive period will end right?]