Businessman’s withdrawal from cyber defamation case against Maria Ressa welcomed – lawyer

Rappler’s CEO lawyer Maria Ressa welcomed the withdrawal of a second cyber defamation case against her client even as she was “prepared to face and refute the accusation.”

“Judge Soriano’s order to close the case is a welcome development. It was based on the voluntary withdrawal of the private plaintiff,” Ressa’s lawyer Theodore Te said in a Viber message to the Manila Times when he asked for a reaction.

Ressa had linked businessman Wilfredo Keng to the death of former Manila adviser Chika Go.

In a statement read by Keng’s attorney Ryan Cruz at the Pandesal Forum on Thursday, he said his client was no longer interested in pursuing the civil side of the case.

Keng’s lawyer also asked the court to remove the criminal aspect as he will no longer be the primary witness to establish the elements of the crime.

Te stated that “without the cooperation of the complainant, the prosecutor cannot prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Keng said he wanted to preserve his privacy as an ordinary citizen, while continuing to conduct his business.

With his close association with the Duterte administration after filing cyber defamation cases against Rappler and Ressa, Cruz said Keng was uncomfortable being called a “tool of government.”

“Being presented as a tool of government is not something that anyone would want to have on their behalf… It’s not really fair that Mr. Keng is presented as such,” said Cruz.

Ressa and former Rappler staffer Reynaldo Santos Jr. were convicted by Manila Regional Magistrates’ Court of cyber defamation in June 2020 for an article on the news site linking Keng to the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Keng is said to have loaned his SUVs to Corona during his impeachment trial.

Keng claimed that Rappler did not understand his side of the controversy.

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Bernice Dyer

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