Philippine labour coalition condemns guilty verdict on journalist Maria Ressa

Nagkaisa Labour Coalition, the Philippines’ biggest coalition of labour centres, condemned the guilty verdict against award-winning journalist Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos on charges of cyberlibel.  It said that the decision is part of the government’s crackdown on political dissidents and critics and sends a chilling effect on the exercise of freedom of expression, particularly with President Rodrigo Duterte’s impending signing of the draconian Anti-terror law. 

Nagkaisa said that the conviction of Ressa and Santos is just one of the many examples of how Philippine laws under the Duterte government are being weaponized to go after its perceived political enemies. It said that the court’s decision was reprehensible as it goes against clearly established rules on the prescription of crimes and failed to consider that criminal law has no retroactive effect. 

(Photo: Yahoo News Australia)

Nagkaisa explained that Ressa and Santos were arrested in 2017 on cyber libel charges related to an article published in 2012 that reported on the alleged ties between Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona, who was impeached in 2011, and wealthy businessmen including Wilfredo Keng. The labour coalition said that the complaint was not compliant to the one-year prescriptive period for ordinary libel under Philippine laws. It also said that the law against cyberlibel was not yet enacted at the time the subject article was published in 2012. It said that the law cannot be applied retroactively.

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson expressed his support for Ressa and Santos. 

“The freedom of the press in an integral part of any modern democracy. No country is free without it. As such, BWI sends its warmest solidarity and support to Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos, and to all the brave Filipino media practitioners and workers who are standing firm on their roles as truth-tellers. We are with you in this important fight,” Yuson said.