The arrest and one night detention of Maria Ressa the CEO of online news site Rappler for cyber libel may be one for the books because of three reasons namely:
The alleged crime was committed four months before the cybel libel law was approved in Sept 2012, there being a constitutional prohibition of an ex post facto law. Second, that government accusers claim the said libel news was allegedly and (suddenly) updated in February 2014 and thus actionable. This needs proof.
Thirdly, the arrest order Wednesday was issued and served after office hours therefore nobody would grant bail at night so Maria Ressa had to spend the night in the NBI detention center in Taft Avenue. Worse, she never read the indictment against her.
This is an old trick against journalists accused of libel by “influential powers that be” just to embarrass the newsman and get back at the press. Well for seasoned journalists like us, we are ready with our portable night camping gears and cameras. We have been used to sleeping anywhere anytime during the good ole days. And second, a seasoned journalist who can sense an arrest coming, will deposit “advanced” bail bond in Court which can be used immediately when indicted with a bailable offense. We always keep the receipt.
In our actual case years back involving one councilor who influenced the prosecution, an insider sent a signal of an impending indictment and impending arrest. We immediately flew to Manila and filed our petition before the Secretary of Justice and the next day the libel was ordered dismissed. Pure harassment. We just have to fight. And it’s always worth to have friends up there.
To be arrested for TRUTH is a badge of honor earned by a journalist like Maria Ressa. It did her honor and prestige as a journalist worldwide and her accusers also earned a perpetual bad reputation and image worldwide. So who is the real victor for history?
All accused are presumed innocent including those perceived crooks in the Senate who were indicted for plunder (P50Million+ minimum) but posted bail even for flimsy reasons like health, and insufficiency of evidence. And they are running for reelection! Care to vote?
Truth is, there are three sides of the law, the truth, the false, and the gray area. The three sides can be invoked by everyone. One example, GMA was arrested and jailed without bail by one president. Later, she was released, declared innocent, by the next president, and she became speaker of the House of Congress. Yes, for the same “crime.” Law, guilt, and innocence depends on the beholder indeed—and who is in power.
As journalists, this is a reality check. We have to live with it just like anybody else, including senators who are not exempted. But we have to be ready, vigilant, and knowledgeable of the law so that at any time, we will know where we stand, and know how to maneuver ourselves.
In sports, a referee sees a foul ball, another doesn’t. Dakki sees cancer, the other doesn’t. In ballgames, in boxing, even in the confessional box where sin depends on the beholder .
Only God is the ultimate judge. So if we are with God, who can overcome and be against us? He is the only Master that we can truly depend upon.