MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he has nothing to do with the cyber libel case that led to Rappler CEO Maria Ressa's arrest on Wednesday, February 13.
Duterte claims he does not even know Wilfredo Keng, the businessman who filed the complaint against Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr.
"Hindi ko kilala 'yang si Keng (I do not know Keng). Frankly, I do not know him or what prompted him to file a case," said Duterte on Thursday, February 14, during a chance interview with reporters in Bulacan.
He even claimed he knows next to nothing about the arrest.
"'Di ko talaga alam 'yan. Not for today… sa labas po ako the whole day (I really don't know about it. Not for today...I was out the whole day.)," he said.
Asked to comment on Ressa's arrest, Duterte said he is yet to read the case against her.
"I cannot give you an opinion," said the President.
"Susmaroyosep, far from it, actually," Duterte said.
But what of his threats against other media organizations, such as television network ABS-CBN? Duterte said his threat to block its franchise renewal is not borne of his anger at their reportage.
"Yes, of course, but not because of that, but because of the money na tinanggap ng ABS na hindi naman kami sinabihan na 'yung pinagbayaran namin na political adveritsments at the time hindi naman natuloy," he said.
(Because of the money that ABS-CBN accepted and we were not told that we were paying for political advertisements that wouldn't be aired.)
Duterte has long accused ABS-CBN of not airing political advertisements his campaign team paid for and even those of other candidates, like Senator Francis Escudero. In 2016, Escudero ran for vice president.
Ressa was arrested on Wednesday, a day after a Manila court judge issued an arrest warrant for cyber libel.
Because the warrant was served after office hours and because a Pasay City Municipal Trial Court judge refused to accept Ressa's bail, Ressa spent the night at the National Bureau of Investigation.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.