CJ Corona’s ghost
IT is astonishing how many in the press here and abroad have rushed to swallow hook, line and sinker Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s lies that with her arrest on cyberlibel charges, she is a victim of the wrath of this administration.
Ressa simply is an extreme case of a person with such a huge sense of entitlement and an elephantine ego that she thinks she can violate our laws, because she and Rappler are on a noble crusade fighting an “evil” government
Let’s take a rational look at the cyberlibel case brought against her and her former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr., now a finance department employee.
In its article reporting the arrest, Rappler claimed: “The Department of Justice (DoJ) recommended the filing in court of cyber libel charges against Ressa…over a story published in May 2012 — or 4 months before the law that they allegedly violated was enacted.”
This is a total lie. Yes, the story was published first on May 29, 2012, or before the Anti Cyber-Libel Law was enacted in July and came into force the next month. But the story was “updated” on Feb. 19, 2014 — two years after the law had been in full force.
If an article in the internet that was posted years ago is “updated” today, for example, it is as if it was reported only today.
And to this day, more than a year after the businessman filed the case, it is still posted on Rappler’s website, as if telling the administration, “F**k you, go ahead and arrest us for libel.”
This of course is another instance of Rappler’s refusal to correct its lies. Its article in September 2016 that reported false, inflated figures on the casualties in the government’s war against drugs was updated a year later, and is still posted to this day — despite incontrovertible evidence that the numbers were false, yet still reported by some in the foreign media.*
And what was the cyberlibel article about? It was another of Rappler’s many articles that savaged then Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial. While the website pretends to be the beacon of press freedom in this country, it was part of the Yellow Cult’s project to remove Corona. Why?
Other than in order to put the Supreme Court totally under the Yellows’ thumb, that project intended to extract P10 billion from government when the Aquino-Cojuangco clan had to turn over Hacienda Luisita under agrarian reform.
Ruthless vs Corona
The article was ruthless in savaging Corona, and any editor would have seen it easily as a libelous one. It reads:
”Even as the Corona impeachment trial comes to a close Tuesday, controversy continues to hound the Chief Justice. He appears to have a penchant for using vehicles registered under the names of controversial personalities.
His black Chevrolet Suburban, a sports utility vehicle he used to travel to and from the Senate — when he appeared on May 22 and 25 before the impeachment court — is being linked to questionable transactions and persons.
Between 2010 to 2011, a Newsbreak investigation (prompted by a tip that a litigant with a case pending before the Supreme Court was allowing him the use of an expensive vehicle) found that plate number ZWK 111 was registered under the name of Wilfredo Keng, a Chinese-Filipino businessman dubbed by Forbes Magazine as one of the richest Filipinos in 2010. The investigation was also part of the research for Marites Dañguilan-Vitug’s upcoming book on the high tribunal.”
Dañgilan-Vitug had been Rappler’s “editor-at-large” and was at the forefront of the black-propaganda campaign against Corona to remove him, even writing a book savaging him, rumored to have been funded by the law Firm that detested the Chief Justice. Worse, when Corona’s impeachment trial started, Vitug even wrote an article on Jan. 2, 2012 , published both in the Philippine Daily Inquirer as the banner story and in Rappler, that the University of Santo Tomas broke the rules to give Corona a Ph.D. It was intended to portray, especially to the Senate impeachment court, that Corona was so dishonest that he even cheated to get a Ph.D.
The article was proven to be totally false, with the Inquirer apologizing for it, and publishing UST’s lengthy point-by-point rebuttal, and refusing to allow Vitug to answer this. However, as in the case of the cyberlibel charge, Rappler ignored the UST’s rebuttal and even updated it in May 2015.
To this day, Vitug’s Rappler article falsely claiming that Corona had cheated to get a Ph.D. is still posted on its website. If anything, it must be Corona’s ghost crying out for justice to stop Rappler’s lies.
Ressa was so confident she was above the law, or so incompetent as an editor that she didn’t block libelous articles in her website, and obviously even defended them.
I was told that Keng, the businessman who filed the charges, was reportedly so angry at Rappler, since it refused to admit its lies and take down the article from the internet. This is because, after the publication of the article, Keng lost business worth more than a P100 million, as the article practically identified him as against the Aquino administration because of his alleged support of Corona. His would-be partners got spooked by this and backed off from their planned deals.
C’mon, do you think that Duterte and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra — who had been former President Aquino 3rd’s deputy executive secretary — should have told the judge who issued the arrest warrant, Judge Reinalda Estacio-Montesa, not to do so since this would raise a howl that this government was suppressing the press?
Estacio-Mendoza, one of the youngest regional trial court judges, has been getting a reputation as a brave, feisty judge. Even in the face of intense pressure, Estacio-Mendoza last year ruled that the suspected smuggling lord Mark Taguba could not be kept under NBI custody, and ordered him transferred to the Manila City Jail.
Do you think this is a judge that Duterte, or Justice Secretary Guevarra, could order her what to do? Ressa’s accusation that she is a victim of press suppression is in effect a claim that Judge Estacio-Mendoza is violating her oath as a judge of a court of justice and is merely the President’s stooge. She’s certainly digging her grae deeper and deeper.
Ressa also should have been alerted by the fact that the researcher who wrote the libelous article was Reynaldo Santos Jr. a leftist, biased reporter, who had been Vitug’s colleague who had co-authored a libelous book against former President Arroyo. Competent editors are extra careful in dealing with the reportage of the leftists, since they have an agenda to blacken the reputation of the government. (Santos, however, seemed to have joined the establishment in recent years. From Rappler, he joined the Bureau of Customs and is now with the Department of Finance.)
Spits on our laws
This cyberlibel case isn’t the first time that Ressa and Rappler have spat on our laws, and when called to account, claimed that press freedom is being suppressed in the Philippines.
Alerted by an article in Rappler itself boasting that two US outfits had invested in it, I wrote in October 2016 that this was a blatant violation of our Constitution that bans any form of foreign involvement in media. After about a year during which the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated the allegation — and gave Rappler all the opportunity to respond — it ruled in 2018 that it violated the constitutional ban, and ordered it to be dissolved. (Rappler has appealed to a higher court.)
With the SEC ruling, Ressa shouted to the world: “Duterte is suppressing freedom of the press in the Philippines.”
Ressa tried to wriggle her way out of the morass by claiming that the foreign money put into the firm was in the form of depositary receipts, which other firms such as Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and ABS-CBN use to go around the constitutional restrictions.
Even as the SEC ignored that argument, the Bureau of Internal Revenue took notice, pointing out that such transactions on securities involved revenues Rappler receive, didn’t report, and didn’t pay taxes on, amounting to P133 million. The BIR forwarded its findings to the justice department, which upheld it and filed tax evasion cases last month.
Ressa responded that the tax evasion case was “a clear form of continuing intimidation and harassment” against the company and “an attempt to silence reporting that does not please the administration.”
There’s a special place in hell for liars like Ressa. To cover up for her boo-boos as editor-in-chief and CEO of Rappler, for her arrogant defiance of our laws, she has been lying to the world that the Philippines is under an evil dictatorship that is ruthless in suppressing the press, and that only she and Rappler in Philippine media are bold enough to fight Duterte.
What colossal hypocrisy!
Ressa and Rappler savaged a hapless Corona to help President Aquino control the Supreme Court and to put billions of pesos in his clan’s bank accounts. Now they are claiming to be crusaders for a free press.
*See “Rappler spread lies to the world,” in my book Debunked, available in National Book, Fully Booked, La Solidaridad, and Popular book stores in metropolitan Manila and in some of their branches nationwide. Also at www.rigobertotiglao.com/book