Are Ressa and Santos doomed?
In his July 5 column “Saving Maria Ressa,” former chief justice Artemio Panganiban did not sound very optimistic about the prescription of one year being the only legal basis to have the conviction meted out to Rappler’s Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr. reversed. He cited a 2018 resolution of the Supreme Court (Tolentino v. People) holding that cyberlibel prescribes in 15 years, not one year. He hopes, however, that the Supreme Court might take a second, hard look at that issue due to the public interest involved. He is rooting for a 180-degree ruling more favorable to the accused.
To be sure, there is nothing “well-settled” when it comes to decisions of the Supreme Court. In one case it may say one thing, but in another, otra cosa—depending on so many alien factors. Flip-flops are nothing new. But given the composition of the current Supreme Court—mostly President Duterte’s appointees—Ressa and Santos are, for all intents and purposes, goners. Bereft of the benefit of probation, they are doomed to be jailed for no less than six years.
Mr. Duterte always got apoplectic at former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was constantly in his crosshairs. See how his dominant gang in the Supreme Court went out on a limb to allow “quo warranto” to kick her out with greater dispatch, instead of leaving it up to Congress to impeach her, which is the tedious and only process ordained in the Constitution for that purpose. Mr. Duterte hated Ressa just as much, if not more, for her unflattering views about him, his friends, and his administration. Santos is just collateral damage.
In the ultimate analysis, pardon is their only hope—from the next president in 2022, if ever.
Rey C. Escobar,
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