Atty. JJ Disini legal counsel for Rappler, represented its CEO Maria Ressa in a hearing before the NBI last January 22, 2018 over the cyber-libel complaint filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng last October 2017.
The case arose from the report by Rappler on the use of Keng’s utility sports vehicle by former Chief Justice Renato Corona while Keng is implicated in several crimes that were under investigation. The report was published sometime May 2012, four months prior to the effectivity of the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
According to NBI Cybercrime Division Chief Manuel Eduarte, the publication of the report should be treated as a continuing offense and as such, would still be punishable after the said Act took effect. Atty. Disini disagreed and said that he could not recall any case decided by Supreme Court stating that libel is a continuing crime.
“I’m not aware of any jurisprudence that says libel is continuously being committed. The closest thing I can come up with is a case in Europe on the right to be forgotten, involving an article published originally on paper but went online, and an individual in Spain who was able to cause Google to remove it from their search.”
He added that treating libel as a continuing crime would be dangerous for media, including the bloggers.
“If the theory is that if a libelous article is published in the past, and continues to be accessible today, and that constitutes libel today, then no one is safe. Anyone that has a libelous article that continues to be accessible may be charged with libel, and moving forward, this affects everyone, not just media, even bloggers.”