By Jeffrey Damicog
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has begun investigating allegations that its agents have committed violations when they arrested Rappler executive Maria Ressa.
NBI Director Dante Gierran has informed the Department of Justice (DOJ) that the Bureau’s Internal Affairs Division (AID) will be conducting the probe.
“Please be informed that we have directed the Internal Affairs Division (IAD), this Bureau, to look into this matter and render a report as soon as possible,” read Gierran’s memorandum addressed to Justice Undersecretary Adrian Ferdinand Sugay dated February 18.
“Rest assured that we will take this matter with utmost objectivity and fairness, copy of the report on this case, progress or otherwise, will be sent to your Office as soon as the same is available,” he assured.
Gierran made the move after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ordered the NBI to look into the allegations of violations.
“If warranted, we shall take the appropriate disciplinary action,” Guevarra assured.
Serving a warrant of arrest issued by Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46, agents of the NBI’s Cyber Crime Division (NBI-CCD) arrested Ressa at her office in Pasig City on the night of February 13.
However, NBI agents have been accused of curtailing press freedom when they prevented Rappler staff members from taking videos of her arrest.
One of the Rappler staff members who took a video said the NBI also threatened her that she will be charged next if she didn’t stop taking the footage.
The DOJ filed the cyber libel case before the RTC after finding probable cause to indict Ressa and former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr. for violating Section 4(c)(4) of Republic Act 10175, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
The case stemmed from the complaint of businessman Wilfredo Keng regarding the May 29, 2012 online article written by Santos titled “CJ Using SUVs of Controversial Businessman”.
The article wrote that then Chief Justice Renato Corona was using a 2011 Chevrolet Suburban which was found registered to Keng whom Santos described as “shady” and involved in human trafficking and drug smuggling, among others. At that time, Corona was facing an impeachment complaint.
“The publication complained of imputes to complainant Keng the commission of crimes. It is clearly defamatory,” read the DOJ resolution.
“Under Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code, the DOJ pointed out “every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown,” it pointed out.
Keng said Rappler turned down his request to take down the article which he found was updated and revised on February 19, 2014.
For the part of the respondents, they argued they cannot be charged since RA 10175 was not yet in effect when the article was first published.
“While we agree with respondents that the first publication of the article on 29 May 2012 is not covered by the Cybercrime Act of 2012, considering that the law was promulgated only in September 2012, we cannot share the same view with respect to the 19 February 2014 publication,” the DOJ explained