A Manila court shot down the claim of Rappler chief executive officer and founder Maria Ressa that her cyber libel case was an attack of press freedom by saying that the media should use its power responsibly.

This ain’t about press freedom! Court: Ressa guilty of cyberlibel over Rappler’s ‘malicious’ article

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A Manila court shot down the claim of Rappler chief executive officer and founder Maria Ressa that her cyber libel case was an attack of press freedom by saying that the media should use its power responsibly.

RELATED STORY: Ressa found guilty of cyber libel

The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 36 found Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. guilty of cyber libel for the article over a 2012 article concerning businessman Wilfredo Keng.

RELATED STORY: Dangerous precedent for netizens: Rappler paints doomsday scenario after Ressa’s cyber libel conviction

In a 37-page decision, judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa said there was no curtailment of press freedom in declaring Ressa and Santos guilty of cyber libel since a free press must be responsible.

“The exercise of a freedom should and must be used with due regard to the freedom of others. As Nelson Mandela said ‘for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to lkive in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others’,” the decision read.

With this, the magistrate found them guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation 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.

The case stemmed from the complaint of 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.

“In this case, the prosecution was able to establish the presence of all elements of cyberlibel,” read the court ruling.

Among the elements, the court said article clearly showed malice since it was published “with reckless disregard whether it was false or not.”

“In the present case, Accused Santos Jr. Wrote the subject article sans verification as to the veracity of the allegations stated therein. The article imputes various crimes upon the person of Keng which was sufficiently proven during the trial to be untrue. Thus, the Court is of the conclusion that accused Santos, Jr. did not bother to verify with any law enforcement agency whether Keng is actually involved in any of the aforementioned crimes before publishing the subject article,” read the ruling.

The court cited the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the National Bureau Investigation (NBI) have both issued certifications that Keng had no derogatory and criminal records.

Keng even tried to give his side of the story but Rappler did not give him the opportunity.

“If it is true that Rappler, Inc. and the individuals composing it are after fairness and balance, they will publish Keng’s side of the story for clarification despite the existence of more urgent news,” the court stresed.

Contrary to allegations made by the accused, the court said Keng was able to file the case within the prescriptive period.

“The instant case was filed in Court on 5 February 2019, which well within the period of twelve years and clearly the precription period has not yet set in,” it said.

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POLITIKO / Latest News

Chinese cyber-espionage unit on US hacking spree: report

At least 30,000 US organizations including local governments have been hacked in recent days by an “unusually aggressive” Chinese cyber-espionage campaign, according to a computer security specialist.

The campaign has exploited recently discovered flaws in Microsoft Exchange software, stealing email and infecting computer servers with tools that let attackers take control remotely, Brian Krebs said in a post at his cyber security news website.

“This is an active threat,” White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said when asked about the situation during a press briefing.

“Everyone running these servers needs to act now to patch them. We are concerned that there are a large number of victims,” she added.

After Microsoft released patches for the vulnerabilities on Tuesday, attacks “dramatically stepped up” on servers not yet updated with security fixes, said Krebs, who cited unnamed sources familiar with the situation.

“At least 30,000 organizations across the United States — including a significant number of small businesses, towns, cities and local governments — have over the past few days been hacked by an unusually aggressive Chinese cyber espionage unit that’s focused on stealing email from victim organizations,” Krebs wrote in the post.

He reported that insiders said hackers have “seized control” of thousands of computer systems around the world using password-protected software tools slipped into systems.

Microsoft said early this week that a state-sponsored hacking group operating out of China is exploiting previously unknown security flaws in its Exchange email services to steal data from business users.

The company said the hacking group, which it has named “Hafnium,” is a “highly skilled and sophisticated actor.”

Hafnium has in the past targeted US-based companies including infectious disease researchers, law firms, universities, defense contractors, think tanks, and NGOs.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Microsoft executive Tom Burt said the company had released updates to fix the security flaws, which apply to on-premises versions of the software rather than cloud-based versions, and urged customers to apply them.

“We know that many nation-state actors and criminal groups will move quickly to take advantage of any unpatched systems,” he added at the time.

Microsoft said the group was based in China but operated through leased virtual private servers in the United States, and that it had briefed the US government.

Beijing has previously hit back at US accusations of state-sponsored cyber theft. Last year it accused Washington of smears following allegations that Chinese hackers were attempting to steal coronavirus research.

In January, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies said Russia was probably behind the massive SolarWinds hack that shook the government and corporate security, contradicting then-president Donald Trump, who had suggested China could be to blame.

Microsoft said Tuesday the Hafnium attacks “were in no way connected to the separate SolarWinds-related attacks.” (AFP)

Werpa si Eba! Lord Velasco recognizes women’s role in nation building

By Billy Begas

Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco pays tribute to all Filipina for their pivotal role in nation-building even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Allow me to recognize all the strong, empowered and empowering women of the House. Kinaya at kinakaya natin ang laban sa pandemya because you kept everything steady here at work even as you faced the challenges with your families at home,” said Velasco.

At present, women make up 48 percent of the House workforce.

Records from the chamber’s Human Resource Management Service show that out of the 4,037 members and employees of the House, 1,941 are women. Of which, 85 are legislators, 649 are Secretariat employees, 940 are congressional staff members, and 267 are co-terminus and contractual workers.

The House has eight female deputy speakers namely Evelina Escudero (Sorsogon), Loren Legarda (Antique), Bernadette Herrera (Bagong Henerasyon party-list), Kristine Singson-Meehan (Ilocos Sur), Divina Grace Yu (Zamboanga del Sur), Camille Villar (Las Piñas City), Rose Marie Arenas (Pangasinan), and Vilma Santos-Recto (Batangas).

After Velasco’s election as Speaker in October 2020, the House elected a female Secretary General—Atty. Jocelia Bighani Sipin.

Sipin spearheaded the House Secretariat through a period of transition from October 12 to November 18 last year. She is currently the Deputy Secretary General assigned at the Office of the Speaker.

On March 8, female lawmakers will take full control of the plenary session as part of the annual tradition in the legislative chamber to mark the National Women’s Month and the International Women’s Day.

The all-women session will be led by Deputy Speaker Arenas, president of the Association of Women Legislators Foundation Inc. of the 18th Congress.

The plenary is set to adopt resolutions congratulating two Filipino-American appointees of United States President Joe Biden—Gloria Steele and Camille Calimlim Touton.

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