IT is quite despicable that Maria Ressa and her Yellow crowd have been shouting to the world that her criminal conviction for libel for a Rappler article was suppression of the press. It is infinitely disgusting that they have claimed that President Duterte is behind it and that the Philippines has degenerated into a country where freedom of the press no longer exists.
I have never seen such hypocrisy on such a scale.
If there is any president involved in this issue, it is former president Benigno Aquino 3rd, whose Yellow Cult to this day has been a fan and, I strongly suspect, even a financier of Rappler.
That Rappler article, which was ruled criminally libelous by Regional Trial Court Judge Rainelda Estasio-Montesa the other day, was part of the most odious, immoral and depraved political campaigns in our history.
This was Aquino‘s assault on the Supreme Court in 2012 that removed then-Chief Justice Renato Corona and replaced him with Maria Lourdes Sereno, the most unqualified chief justice ever but the most servile to the president and the Yellows.
Aquino mistakenly thought that with Corona’s removal, the court would reverse its ruling on the fate of his clan’s Hacienda Luisita, and that would give it P2 billion more in agrarian-reform compensation.
Rappler’s libelous piece was first posted in May 2012, published again with some editing in February 2014 — after the enactment of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 which penalizes libel committed through the internet. It hasn’t been taken down to this day — an astonishing display of impunity.
The article was just one of the many news stories of the well-financed and well-organized propaganda campaign to smear the reputation of Corona, in order to provide the justification for the House of Representatives to impeach him, and the Senate to pronounce him guilty in the impeachment trial that started in January 2012.
The campaign to remove Corona had a war chest of at least P200 million for its direct operations (especially for media, but not including of course the money given to legislators) drawn from the P200 billion that was put under Aquino’s discretion under his clever Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds.
The following are the facts.
The target of the May 29, 2012 libelous article written by one Reynaldo Santos Jr. was not really businessman Wilfredo Keng, who filed and won the libel case against him and Ressa.
As is obvious from the article’s title itself — “CJ using SUVs of controversial businessman” — its aim was to smear Corona’s integrity, suggesting that Keng was Corona’s crony, who the article claimed was “under surveillance by the National Security Council for alleged involvement in illegal activities, namely “human trafficking and drug smuggling.”
Murder and smuggling
The article was so vicious it claimed that Keng was a high-level criminal “involved in a murder case for which he was never jailed.” Keng was also accused of “smuggling fake cigarettes and granting special investors residence to Chinese nationals,” the article claimed.
Although the low-profile Keng isn’t known even to most media members, he was listed by Forbes magazine as the 23nd richest Filipino in 2010 with a net worth of $100 million.
The court that heard the libel case identified him as a businessman with interests in several companies based in the Philippines and China, i.e., Century Peak Metals Holdings Corp., Colony Investors, Good Earth Plaza and U-U-Need Shopping Center. He owns many of the shopping buildings in downtown Manila.
Now do you understand why Keng was so angry at the article that he pursued his libel case? What’s the use of your money if some media would destroy your reputation in such a cavalier manner?
If it hadn’t been Keng but, for instance, Iñigo Zobel or Robert Coyiuto who had been smeared, wouldn’t they have been as livid and pursued the libel case? I suspect Rappler’s editors, known to hobnob with Makati-based mestizo big businessmen, simply didn’t know how big a businessman Keng was, who was capable of defending himself.
The anti-Corona plotters propagandists’ message was that Corona was so dirty that his friends were “criminals” such as Keng. Their message was that if Keng could lend Corona an SUV, then he would probably have given him millions of pesos too.
The plan was for Corona’s House prosecutors to summon Keng to the Senate after the article came out and grill him about his association with the chief justice. The black propagandists calculated that the way the ethnic Chinese Keng would talk and look in the Senate trial would be enough to stir the latent anti-Chinese racism among Filipinos, enough to convict Corona, who was known in the legal community as an upright work-to-home kind of person.
However, the Senate apparently was so satiated with their DAP money — P200 million per senator — or had been told that full payment would be disbursed after that, that it called for a vote earlier than expected, on May 29, 2012. Rappler didn’t expect that the decision would be made on that day, with a note appended to the article that this was scheduled the week after.
The article was no longer needed and was forgotten in the celebration by the Yellows over their achievement in taking out the Chief Justice of the Republic, the first time this was done.
But certainly not for Keng whose businesses suffered because the Rappler article depicted him as connected with criminals. According to the court records, his wife and two daughters “have been ridiculed and judged by friends and acquaintances and labeled as associated with drug lords and smugglers.”
Until February 2017, Keng continuously tried to get Rappler to take down the article, using several intermediaries, including a well-known congressman. Exasperated and not the kind of businessman to ask “how much?” Keng gave up and filed the libel complaint, with the arraignment finally starting on May 14, 2019.
Significantly, the article read: “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….”
This is certainly revealing. Newsbreak was the defunct print and then online magazine set up and later folded into Rappler as a special section by its top editors, Chay Hofileña, Glenda Gloria (who is also director of Rappler) and, more importantly, by “editor-at-large” Marites Dañguilan-Vitug.
Vitug was obviously part of the propaganda team for Corona’s conviction. She published an article Dec. 22, 2017 in Rappler which was the first damaging salvo of the media campaign to smear the chief justice. It was titled “UST breaks rules to favor Corona: Chief Justice finished doctorate without required dissertation.”
After the article didn’t make a ripple at all as few read the website, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published it as its banner story on Jan. 1, 2012, with the headline in unusually large font. The article was pregnant with meaning: Corona’s trial would start January 16, and the Inquirer would crush him.
However, the article was false, with information twisted and spun to claim that Corona had cheated his way to get a Ph.D. The University of Santo Tomas itself debunked the article in detail.
Who could have gotten that “tip from a litigant with a case at the Supreme Court” as the article put it, if not Vitug? The article’s author Santos, had never covered the Supreme Court. Vitug, on the other hand, wrote a book in 2010 on the high court — which criticized every justice except Antonio Carpio and extremely critical of Corona.
The libelous article also claimed that Keng’s criminal activities were contained in a National Security Council document. But the author, Santos, was a new reporter; it is impossible that he could have acquired a “National Security Council” document that detailed the alleged criminal activities of Keng or the photos that accompanied the article of the purported SUV Corona used. Before the Keng piece, he had not written anything at all on the impeachment or on Corona.
Who could have gotten that “document” if not Vitug who was close to and wrote the biography of President Fidel Ramos’ National Security Adviser Jose Almonte, who is known to have retained his network in the council.
Vitug’s role in the article didn’t end in 2012 or 2014. According to the court decision, Keng’s lawyer Leonard de Vera communicated with Vitug to ask Rappler to take down the libelous article.
She told the lawyer that a reporter would be assigned to get Keng’s side, which would be posted on the website, and the libelous article would be taken down. A reporter did talk to Keng, and she told the court that she had submitted the article to her editors.
Rappler, however, never published the article and didn’t take down the libelous piece.
Why would Ressa, the top honcho at Rappler, assign Vitug, who only works on a part-time basis at Rappler, to handle the complaint? Was Ressa telling her, “This is your mess, clean it up!”?
It is so dishonest for Vitug to have hosted an online forum on the day the court ruling was made, in which top media personalities in the United States were prodded to condemn Ressa’s conviction, one even saying “he felt sick” about it.
Vitug knows what that libelous article really was. I suspect she either wrote it herself or gave the poor author Santos — who I’m sure will be thrown under the bus by Rappler — all the allegations contained there. That is probably the reason she couldn’t get herself to take the piece down and publish a retraction.
The big question though is why Ressa approved it, and why she has refused to take it down to this day.
Truth will out, and on the day it does, it will expose Ressa as one of the biggest frauds in international media history, and the US media establishment — yes the same one which sold to the world the idea that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in 2003 and proceeded to destroy that ancient country — which has glorified her as the most gullible in the world.
Corona died of cardiac arrest, aged 67, on April 29, 2016, four years after he was removed as chief justice. I sincerely believe those who conspired to plot his removal are to blame for his untimely death.