Malacañang said Thursday that the arrest of Rappler chief executive officer (CEO) Maria Ressa has nothing to do with press freedom in the country.
“Ms. Ressa being a media practitioner and a high-ranking officer of a media outfit critical of the President’s programs and policies has nothing to do with the present circumstances she is currently in. Freedom of expression, as critics of this Administration erroneously suggest, is absolutely unrelated with Ms. Ressa’s probable violation of the country’s laws,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo, also Chief Presidential legal counsel, said the arrest warrant against Ressa was issued by the court after finding probable cause.
“Ms. Ressa should, in fact, welcome this as an opportunity to defend herself and be heard before the court of law,” he said.
Panelo said the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte will respect the independence of the judiciary and will not interfere in pending cases.
“We are a country of laws and every citizen must adhere to the rule of law. No one is above the law, not even high-profile self-anointed crusading journalists. Whatever the outcome is, it must be respected by everyone for such is the law. This is how the rule of law works,” he said.
The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 on Wednesday issued a warrant of arrest against Ressa and Rappler writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. after being charged under the provision on content-related offenses, which include libel committed through a computer system or similar means.
This stemmed from a cyberlibel complaint filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng in October 2017, who was named by Santos in the article titled “CJ using SUVs of ‘controversial’ businessmen’ as the owner of a sports utility vehicle used by the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The article was published in 2012 and updated in 2014. (PNA)