[Statement] The Alternative Law Groups condemns the unjust arrest of journalist Maria Ressa

Statement of the Alternative Law Groups on the unjust arrest of journalist Maria Ressa

The Alternative Law Groups condemns the unjust arrest of journalist Maria Ressa early Wednesday evening, February 13.

Ressa, CEO and executive director of Rappler, was arrested by officers from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) at the Rappler headquarters in Pasig City.

The arrest was in connection with a cyber libel case filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) over an investigative report published in May 2012, or months before the cybercrime law was enacted. The story in question linked businessman Wilfredo Keng to illegal activities such as human trafficking and drug smuggling and his supposed unethical lending of a sport-utility vehicle to former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

It is a basic principle in criminal law that there is no crime if there is no law punishing it.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution prohibits ex post facto law, therefore, an act which was
not a crime when committed cannot be penalized by a succeeding law. When the
article subject of the DOJ case was published online, there was no cyberlaw in the
Philippines criminalizing such act.

Ressa spent the night in the custody of the NBI after Pasay Metropolitan Trial Court Executive Judge Allan Ariola refused to accept the bail despite having the power to do so under Rule 114 Section 17 of the rules of the court.

Bail is a matter of right. It is a constitutionally guaranteed right. It is only in certain
instances when this right should be denied of, such as when there is conviction, for an
offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. The case of Ressa does not fall under the exceptions.

It must be noted that Ressa is not yet convicted of cyber libel. Moreover, cyber libel is not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment. Therefore, by logical conclusion, Ressa is entitled to bail as a matter of right.

This is the sixth time Ressa has posted bail for one charge in about two months. The insistence of the Duterte administration to arrest Ressa amounts to nothing short of curtailing the freedom of speech and the press. This despicable move may result to a chilling effect among critics who continue to point out wrongdoings in the government.

A free press is an indispensable part of democracy. An independent and critical media serve as the public’s watchdog of a corrupt and crooked government. They hold those in power accountable and empower the public through the pursuit of truthful information.

We call on the public and civil society to join the resistance against any type of efforts in silencing the press!

#DefendPressFreedom

———–

The Alternative Law Groups (ALG) is a coalition of legal resource non-governmental organizations that adhere to the principles and values of alternative or developmental law.

These organizations have distinct programs for developmental legal assistance that is primarily concerned with the pursuit of public interest, respect for human rights and promotion of social justice.

Ateneo Human Rights Center
BALAOD Mindanaw
Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Inc. – ELAC
EnGendeRights
ERDA Foundation, Inc.
KAISAHAN
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center
PANLIPI (TANGGAPANG PANLIGAL NG KATUTUBONG PILIPINO)
Philippine Earth Justice Center, Inc.
Process Foundation Panay,inc
Rainbow Rights Philippines
SALIGAN
Tanggol Kalikasan Inc.
Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau – WLB

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