data privacy

Pinoy Ako Blog’s Jover Laurio wins data privacy case vs Thinking Pinoy’s RJ Nieto

Gelo Gonzales

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Pinoy Ako Blog’s Jover Laurio wins data privacy case vs Thinking Pinoy’s RJ Nieto

Jover Laurio photo, Rappler Talk screenshot/ RJ Nieto file photo, Rappler

The Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 132 rules said that Nieto 'maliciously and with ill intent' collected and published Laurio's personal information, turning her into a target of threats and harassment

MANILA, Philippines – Jover Laurio, the author behind Pinoy Ako Blog, has won her data privacy case against Thinking Pinoy’s Rey Joseph “RJ” Nieto.

In a decision dated March 31, the Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 132 found Nieto guilty of violation of Republic Act 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012, and ordered him to pay Laurio P100,000 in nominal damages, P100,000 in moral damages, P100,000 in exemplary damages, and P50,000 in attorney’s fees and litigation expenses.

Nieto has filed a motion for reconsideration.

The case, filed in March 2018, stemmed from an article titled “#CocoyGate, Cocoy’s Missing, Hey NBI Cybercrime, here’s another name” that Nieto published in October 2017. The article publicly exposed Laurio as the person behind Pinoy Ako Blog, which, prior to Nieto’s article, was being run anonymously. 

‘Ill intent’

The court wrote in its decision, “defendant Nieto maliciously and with ill intent, collected, recorded, consolidated, and published, without authorization, plaintiff’s sensitive, personal information, as follows: a) her name; b) her user credentials for the website ‘Pinoy Ako Blog’; and c) the law school where plaintiff is currently enrolled.” 

“As a direct result of defendant Nieto’s unauthorized sharing of plaintiff’s sensitive, personal information, plaintiff received various harassing and threatening messages, both publicly and privately, over social media from strangers supportive of defendant Nieto’s action,” the court added.

The court noted that Laurio had to take time off from school, and resign from work due to the harassment she received. 

Nieto’s defense included claims that Laurio has a public Facebook account where personal information was available, and that he had a right to free speech. 

The court found the claims lacking merit, noting that while Laurio’s Facebook account was public, she didn’t use her real name in the blog which was designed to be anonymous. Laurio’s testimony stated that she had been “afraid of harassment and retaliation” as the reason for her anonymity at the time. 

The blog published fact-checks, and criticism of the Duterte administration. Nieto was a pro-Duterte blogger. 

‘Not entitled to constitutional protection’

On Nieto’s claim to right to free speech, the court said, “the blog posted by the defendant clearly falls under the type of speech that is not entitled to constitutional protection and may be penalized.” 

The court cited a comment on Nieto’s blog post that verbally attacked Laurio, and Nieto encouraged it. “Apparently, defendant seems instigating hatred against the plaintiff,” the court said.

“Furthermore, although the article relates to the Senate hearing, nevertheless defendant admitted that he was not engaged by any senators or the NBI to collect information of plaintiff. Despite proclaiming himself as journalist, he failed to cite a single ethical tenet of journalism, and it was proven that his publication was for personal profit. Hence, defendant is liable for his transgression,” the court added in its decision.

Sass Sasot (named in the court documents as Allantroy Rogando Sasot), a pro-Duterte figure as well who runs the For The Motherland Facebook page, was originally a co-defendant in the case. Laurio filed a motion to exclude her as a defendant, which the court granted in July 2022.

Laurio: ‘Long battle ahead’

On the legal victory, Laurio said: “Nanalo tayo sa kaso dahil marami ang nagbukas ng kanilang puso para tumulong at manalangin. Mahaba pa ang laban.”

“You might feel alone in fighting for the truth against trolls, but you’re not. We are in the struggle together. Patuloy natin ipagtanggol natin ang katotohanan, dahil ipagtatanggol tayo ng batas,” she added.

(We won because many opened their hearts to help and pray. The fight is long. You might feel alone in fighting for the truth against trolls, but you’re not. We are in the struggle together. Let’s continue to defend the truth, because the law will defend us.) –

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Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.