Keng demands P50M in damages in Rappler cyber libel case

MANILA, Philippines – Businessman Wilfredo Keng is demanding P50 million in damages over the cyber libel charge against Rappler Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr.

Keng took the witness stand before the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46 on Friday, September 27, to testify on his new affidavit.

In the new affidavit executed September 18, Keng is demanding P25 million in moral damages and P25 million in exemplary damages, which he said, he would donate to charity.

"I want to send the message to members of the media that they cannot simply destroy a person's reputation and character, through irresponsible, inaccurate, malicious and unjust reporting, without grave consequences," Keng said in the affidavit. (READ: Keng gets Peter Lim, Bong Revilla lawyers in case vs Maria Ressa)

Rappler's lawyer Ted Te objected to the demand for damages saying it was never included in the charges.

"It is a matter of record that during pre-trial, it was stipulated that the Information does not contain any amount of damages being sought. The pre-trial statement of issues also does not contain any statement as to any amount of monetary damages," Te said.

Te added that "any statement on monetary damages is, therefore, irrelevant and under Rule 128, Section 3, is inadmissible."

Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa overruled Te's objection.

Keng's lawyer Joseph Banguis said they will pursue the damages.

Other details in the affidavit

Keng is suing for cyber libel over a 2012 article on Rappler, which primarily discussed how the late former chief justice Renato Corona was using SUVs of "controversial businessmen," one of them being Keng.

In his new affidavit, Keng admitted lending a vehicle to Corona.

"No, the vehicle used by CJ Corona during his impeachment trial is not mine. I remember lending CJ Corona one of my vehicles but he returned it to me before the impeachment trial began," Keng said.

Keng is disputing parts of the article that linked him to involvement in illegal activities, namely human trafficking and drug smuggling, citing an intelligence report.

"(P50 million) is a reasonable amount and an amount commensurate to the malicious and devastating defamation inflicted upon an innocent person such as I am. Given my stature and net worth, this amount of money is not even comparable to the injury inflicted on my reputation, and the pain and suffering that I, my family and my business have experienced," said Keng.

Keng also blamed the Rappler article for the recent loss of his daughter Patricia who ran as a nominee of the Wow Pilipinas Partylist in the last elections.

"Since we were previously confident that she would win, due to the massive support of her followers, I believe her loss was due to the statements the accused published against me in the article," said Keng.

To be able to charge Rappler with cyber libel, the Department of Justice (DOJ) extended the prescription period of libel from only one year to 12 years.

The article was also written months before the Cybercrime Law was enacted in 2012, but the prosecution used the theory of continuing publication, especially because the article online reflected a later date in 2014, when some typographical errors were belatedly corrected.

Rappler has argued that the Supreme Court has already declared unconstitutional the provision penalizing aiding and abetting a cybercrime. Te argued before Branch 46 that aiding and abetting and continuous publication are the same in this context. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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