MANILA, Philippines — Journalist Maria Ressa, chief of online news website Rappler, was denied bail last night after being arrested by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
As of 11p.m. Ressa has not been able to post bail.
A Pasay City night court judge refused to grant bail even if a cyber libel is a bailable offense.
There was no immediate comment from court on why the bail was denied.
“The fact that an arrest warrant was issued is very interesting and I will follow. I am just shocked the rule of law has been broken to the point that I can’t see it,” Ressa said in a brief interview.
According to a Rappler article, the NBI agents “clad in civilian clothes went to the Rappler headquarters to serve the warrant of arrest.”
Rappler posted on its Twitter account that their employees were prohibited “from taking photos and videos inside the office.”
The NBI agents from the cybercrime division arrested Ressa at her office in Pasig City after securing an arrest warrant from Manila City Regional Trial Court Branch 46 over a cyber libel case recently filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
RTC Judge Reinelda Estacio-Montesa issued the arrest warrant last Tuesday and gave law enforcement agencies 10 days to serve it to Ressa.
The arrest has made international news, with AFP, CNN and The New York Times breaking the story.
The arrest order also covered former reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr.
Earlier, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Ressa could post bail.
“At any rate, the simple solution is to post bail, whichever case it may be against Ms. Ressa,” Guevarra explained.
As authorities served the warrant on Ressa, Malacañang questioned Rappler’s designation as Facebook’s third-party fact checker.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said while it agrees with Facebook’s resolve to combat fake news, Rappler “has a record of spreading fake news.”
Rappler “also has a reputation of being predisposed against majority, if not all, of the policies of this administation, as can be easily gleaned through… its published articles,” he said.
Panelo expressed hope that Facebook’s fact-checking initiative would not evolve into “a tool which censors the good news arising out of the programs of this administration.”
In a statement, Tindig Pilipinas “condemns with full force” Ressa’s arrest, saying it is “clearly one of political repression…validated by the media sector itself both locally and internationally.”
The DOJ filed the cyber libel case against the two over an article published by Rappler in 2012, which linked businessman Wilfredo Keng to criminal activities.
The DOJ found probable cause in the complaint filed by the NBI and Keng for violation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act in March last year.
Published in May 2012, the article written by Santos cited an “intelligence report,” saying Keng had been under surveillance for his alleged involvement in human trafficking and drug smuggling.
A vigil was held at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City to protest Ressa’s arrest.
Journalists also went to the NBI last night to show support for Ressa.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the arrest.
While Filipino netizens in social media slammed the arrest calling it “The hypocrisy of the Duterte administration when his political allies convicted of plunder and corruption are being cuddled and protected”.