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Manila trial court Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa has turned down the appeal of Rappler executive Maria Ressa and former reasercher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. to overturn their cyber libel conviction.

“After a careful evaluation of the arguments of the parties, as well as the records of this case, the Court finds that the Motion for Partial Reconsideration should be denied for lack of merit,” read Montesa’s July 24 order.

The case stemmed from the cyber libel complaint of businessman Wilfredo Keng against the May 29, 2012 article published by Rappler and written by Santos titled “CJ Using SUVs of Controversial Businessman”.

The article reported that then Chief Justice Renato Corona was found using a 2011 Chevrolet Subarban which was found registered to Keng. At that time Corona was facing an impeachment trial.

The article described the businessman as “shady” and has been involved in crimes including drugs and murder.

Among the points raised in her July 24 order, the judge disagreed with Ressa and Santos that the article is considered privileged under Article 352(2) of the Revised Penal Code and, because of this, the prosecution was required to prove malice which it failed to do.

“As thoroughly discussed by the Court in in its Decision dated June 15, 2020, the prosecution effectively established the presence of malice in face,” the magistrate said.

“When malice in fact is proven, assertions and proofs that the libelous articles are qualifiedly privileged communications are futile, since being qualified privileged communications merely prevents the presumption of malice from attaching to a defamatory imputation,” she added.

In her June 15 decision, the magistrate found them guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and sentenced the two to imprisonment ranging from six months and one day up to six years.

Each of them were slapped with P200,000 fine as moral damages and P200,000 as exemplary damages.

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