Looking closely at how NBI carried out arrest warrant against Rappler’s CEO

February 13, 2019 - 10:08 PM
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Maria Ressa under arrest
Maria Ressa, an executive of online news platform Rappler, leaves the Rappler office after being served an arrest warrant in Pasig City, Philippines February, 13 2019. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Observations on how Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa was arrested by officers of the National Bureau of Investigation on charges of cyberlibel surfaced on social media.

The veteran journalist was arrested on the evening of Feb. 13, 2019 with orders from Presiding Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46.

Rappler employees and other media outlets documented the arrest but there were Filipinos who noticed some details in the process.

For one, Ressa was arrested for supposedly violating Republic Act 10175 or the “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012” over a story that was published by the online news website four months before the law was fully enacted.

The story, titled “CJ using SUVs of ‘controversial’ businessmen,” was written by former Rappler employee Reynaldo Santos Jr.

Businessmen Wilfredo Keng filed a cyberlibel complaint after it linked him to illegal drugs and human trafficking.

Some social media users also noticed that Ressa was arrested in circumstances unfavorable to her—a day after the arrest warrant was signed and after 5 p.m., when government offices were already closing.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra argued that Ressa may post bail if she finds a night court that can accommodate her.

“Night courts should be open to receive and process bail for Maria Ressa,” he said when sought for a comment.

The NBI officers who showed her the arrest warrant were in civilian clothes.

When a former Iglesia Ni Cristo minister was arrested in January 2016, the arresting officers were in civilian clothes too.

Then-Manila Police District Chief Edilberto Leonardo said in an interview before, “We did not violate anything when we did not wear our uniform. This is because if policemen would wear uniforms in serving warrants, the subject of our arrest could easily flee.”

Rappler reporters who documented the arrest also claimed that the officers prohibited them from taking videos or pictures during Ressa’s arrest, despite it not being illegal or unconstitutional.

Some recounted that officers also threatened to go after them if they do not cease to document.

GMA News journalist Raffy Tima commented, “If everything is in order, why prevent a legal action to be recorded? Mga kaibigan sa NBI, ano po ang basehan?”

Rappler has been heavily criticized by President Rodrigo Duterte for supposedly publishing “fake news.” They have been banned from covering events concerning Duterte and is additionally accused of committing tax evasion.