President Duterte

MANILA – There was nothing wrong with President Rodrigo Duterte compiling evidence which would prove that Rappler chief executive Maria Ressa is a “fraud,” Malacañang said on Thursday.

Justifying Duterte’s latest verbal tirade against Ressa, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte has the right to expose any irregularities committed by any person, including the Rappler chief.

“Iyan naman po ang trabaho – patuparin ang batas. So hayaan na po natin ang imbestigasyon at sa takdang panahon, ilalabas naman po iyan (That’s the job [of the President] – to implement the law. So let’s wait for the investigation to conclude and in proper time, the truth will be revealed),” Roque said in a virtual press briefing aired on state-run PTV-4.

In a televised public address aired Wednesday, Duterte said he has been collating documents for years now to back his claim that Ressa is a “fraud.”

Duterte said once he is done compiling the evidence against Ressa, he would tell the public about the latter’s “incongruity.”

Roque advised the public to just wait for Duterte’s announcement.

“Well, I don’t have to annotate kung ano ang sinabi ni Presidente (what the President has said). Meron pa pong hinahanda so hintayin po natin kung ano ang hinahanda (He is preparing something so let’s await what he is preparing),” he said.

Ressa, through her Twitter account, responded Wednesday to Duterte’s statement, saying Duterte may just be “seeing too much fraud from where he sits.”

Duterte’s latest claim against Ressa came nearly a month after the latter was convicted of cyber libel.

On June 15, the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 ruled in favor of businessmen Wilfredo Keng, who filed a cyber libel complaint against Ressa and former Rappler researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. in 2017.

Keng filed the cyber libel suit after Rappler, in its May 29, 2012 article, accused him of lending his sports utility vehicle to the late chief justice Renato Corona who at that time was facing an impeachment case.

On Thursday, the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines shared a copy of the July 7 letter sent by the members of the European Parliament to Duterte, urging him to “drop all charges” against Ressa.

The legislative body of the European Union claimed that Ressa’s conviction is “part of an orchestrated campaign of legal harassment” against the Rappler chief and the online news site.

Sought for reaction, Roque reiterated that the Palace cannot intervene because Keng is a private individual who filed a case against Ressa.

“Well, ang kaso po na cyber libel, isang pribadong indibidwal po ang nag-sampa niyan at ang nag-litis po niyan, nag-prosecute ay isang pribadoing abugado rin (The one who filed the cyber libel case is a private individual and the one who prosecuted Ressa is a private lawyer),” he said. (PNA)