Maria Ressa, chief of online news website Rappler, was arrested and taken into custody Wednesday night by the National Bureau of Investigation after a court issued an arrest warrant over a cyber libel case filed by the Department of Justice.
Agents of NBI Cybercrime Division arrested Ressa at her office in Pasig City after the Judge Reinelda Estacio-Montesa of the Manila City RTC Branch 46 issued Tuesday a warrant of arrest and gave law enforcement agencies 10 days to serve the warrant on the accused.
The arrest order also covered former reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr. but it was not clear Wednesday night whether he had been arrested.
Ressa or her office was not immediately available for comment.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Ressa could post bail in the case. “At any rate, the simple solution is to post bail, whichever case it may be against Ms. Ressa,” he stressed.
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 National Bureau of Investigation 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.
The DOJ rejected the defense of the respondents that they could not be held liable under RA 10175, signed in September 2012 or four months after the article was posted on the news website.
It noted the updated version of the article, posted by Rappler on Feb. 19, 2014, was covered by the law.
The DOJ also rejected the defense of the respondents that the complaint should be dismissed because of the one-year prescription period on libel cases, saying such rule did not apply to cyber libel.
Ressa previously spent nearly two decades working as a lead investigative reporter in Southeast Asia for CNN.
She is the author of two books concerning the rise of terrorism in Southeast Asia, 2013’s ′From Bin Laden to Facebook 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism′ and ′Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda’s Newest Center′ in 2011.