JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said that the arrest of Rappler’s Maria Ressa last Wednesday night was not an affront to press freedom.
Guevarra issued the statement in response to accusations that Ressa’s arrest was meant to harass Rappler in particular, and intimidate the working press in general.
“The cases against Rappler and Ms. Ressa have nothing to do with press freedom. Anyone who breaks the law shall be prosecuted,” he stressed in an interview.
“The DoJ will not file charges for the purpose of harassing journalists. Not under my watch,” Guevarra added.
Furthermore, Guevarra disclosed that Ressa was given due process as she was given the chance to refute the charges during preliminary investigation conducted by the Department of Justice on the complaint filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng.
“I assure her constitutional and legal rights will be respected, and I trust that the court will give her a fair trial, based solely on the facts and the law, and not on arguments ad hominem and emotional rhetoric,” he said.
Guevarra explained that Ressa’s camp could have actually prevented her arrest if they really wanted to.
“The arrest of Ms. Ressa is simply procedural. She may post bail anytime – even before the warrant was served. There is no breaking of rule of law. We are following criminal procedures here,” he suggested.
The DoJ chief believed that Ressa’s arrest was a result of negligence on her part.
“It is Ms. Ressa’s responsibility to monitor her own cases closely,” he commented.