YOU could call it karma. I would call it poetic justice.
Unknown to many, Maria Ressa and Rappler’s libelous article was part of the vicious hatchet job they did in 2012 against then-Chief Justice Renato Corona. For that, Ressa (together with the poor guy that had the byline) was convicted first by the Regional Trial Court in 2020 and then the Court of Appeals the other day.
Ressa’s vilification campaign against Corona was intended to convince the public and Congress that he was so corrupt that he had to be removed as chief justice, no matter that this has never been done in the history of the Republic.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd wanted Corona removed for blocking his clan’s appeal to the Supreme Court to pay them P5 billion for putting their Hacienda Luisita under reform. The Supreme Court under Corona decided on only P365 million. A powerful law firm on the other hand — which allegedly bankrolled Rappler — wanted one of its founders to be chief justice.
Journalists should not spread fake news
In fact, Rappler’s “bombshell” on the day of its launch was a colossal lie by its “editor at large” Marites Vitug, that Corona cheated to get his PhD from the University of Santo Tomas. The entire university was aghast at the calumny, and explained in detail why the article was full of lies. They said that Corona should be praised for aspiring for academic accomplishment despite his busy schedule as chief justice. In response, the Inquirer and Rappler simply kept quiet, and let their lies and embarrassment be forgotten with the passage of time.
The target was obvious in the piece’s title: “CJ using SUVs of ‘controversial’ businessmen.” What the piece struggled to portray was that Corona was so corrupt he was close to, and even was lent the SUVs of, a businessman with a “shady past.” But not just shady, Rappler claimed he was engaged in “human trafficking and smuggling,” and was involved in a murder case. Rappler’s source? “Surveillance by the National Security Council” — a giveaway that the Aquino government was feeding fake data to it to demonize Corona. Or it could have been from a past national security adviser with whom both Vitug and the plotting law firm were close to.
What the stupid Rappler staff didn’t bother to check was that while their government sources claimed Keng was a criminal, he was actually a respected property and mining tycoon, listed 32nd by Forbes on the list of the country’s richest. If you were a tycoon, and a media outlet even if only in cyberspace, called you a murderer, a trafficker and a smuggler wouldn’t you use your resources to file criminal charges against it?
So much for Ressa’s claim to the world that she is God’s gift to the Philippine press, upholding its highest ideals. What Ressa did was what a most unprincipled, despicable thing a media person would do, which is to accept a commission from the powers-that-be to destroy someone’s reputation.
Court of Appeals affirms Ressa conviction for cyber libel
Even with Rappler’s obvious boo-boo, and indicative of her arrogance, Ressa refused businessman Keng’s several requests to have the article deleted. In fact, even as the article has been judged as a crime by the Regional Trial Court and now the Court of Appeals, it is still posted on the Rappler website, Ressa’s way of giving the courts the dirty finger in defiance. You can read the libelous piece yourself, now at https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/6061-cj-using-suvs-of-controversial-businessmen/. After several failed attempts to convince Ressa to take down the article, Keng decided to seek justice through the courts only in 2017 because, he said, businessmen with whom he was seeking partnerships expressed doubts about him because of the Rappler article.
Again another instance of poetic justice. Ressa could have been right in her claim that since the article was first posted on May 29, 2012, it could not be penalized under the Cybercrime Prevention Law which was enacted only on Sept. 12, 2012. But then the judges ruled that Rappler continued to post it after the effectivity of the law, which meant that it was as if it was being published every day.
If Ressa were just a bit less arrogant, she would not be facing the prospect of spending six years in prison. Apparently, she had a sense of impunity since she had contracted two powerful law firms to defend her, to which she reportedly paid P50 million in lawyers’ fees so far, and had US media supporting her. The US also had managed to manipulate the Nobel committee to give her the prestigious peace prize — apparently a buy-one-take-one deal as the award was shared with a Russian journalist, a few months before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Another indication of Ressa’s unscrupulousness as a journalist, Rappler used its media platform to raise doubts about Keng’s businesses, to bludgeon him into withdrawing the libel complaint. It posted over a dozen articles insinuating that Keng’s mining company was operating illegally, that his Chinese partners were as shady as him.
But her worst crime goes beyond journalistic ethics. To get out of the deep hole she herself had dug — she was also found guilty of violating the Constitution for taking in foreign money — she portrayed our country as a land ruled by a dictator, out to suppress press freedom. All of us in the media who do not share her views are therefore portrayed as unprincipled cowards.
The “dictator” has stepped down from power, pulling the rug from under her argument of press suppression. The appellate court not only affirmed the decision two years ago by the Regional Trial Court. Finding Ressa and her associate’s libel crime was so serious, the court increased the penalty imposed on them from a minimum of six months to a minimum of six years and eight months. It has been the rule of law that has been operating,
Corona, the target of Rappler’s libelous article, was removed in May 2012. Just a few months later, it was uncovered that the Aquino 3rd government gave P1.1 billion in additional pork barrel funds before, during and after the trial to the 20 senators who voted to remove Corona, an obvious form of bribery. (Ferdinand Marcos Jr., with Joker Arroyo and Miriam Santiago, were the only three senators to have voted to acquit Corona).
Corona died in April 2016 because of complications from a heart attack. His friends believe he was so distraught over the injustice and embarrassment he suffered, he simply lost the will to live.
After 10 years, and from the grave, Corona exacts justice on one of his persecutors.
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