NBI: No link between cases vs. Rappler

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Rappler CEO Maria Ressa

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 19) — Rappler is facing license revocation and a cybercrime complaint, but the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said on Friday there is no link between the two cases against the news website.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on Wednesday ordered the NBI to look into Rappler's possible violations of the Constitution and related laws in connection with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decision revoking the news site's registration over ownership and control issues.

Related: SEC cancels Rappler's license to do business

One day later, NBI's subpoena against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and two others came out.

Despite Rappler's allegation of "political" attacks, the NBI was quick to point out there is no link between the two cases.

"Timing not within our control. We are already investigating this case when the issue about SEC and Rappler cropped up and the instruction by the DOJ for us conduct the probe. Walang koneksyon. Nagkataon lang," NBI Cybercrime Division Chief Manuel Eduarte said on Friday.

Businessman Wilfredo Keng filed the online libel complaint against Ressa and former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos in October 2017. Along with Ressa and Santos, the NBI also summoned businessman Benjamin Bitanga on Thursday.

Related: NBI subpoenas Rappler CEO, 2 others over cybercrime complaint

The complaint stemmed from a 2012 story written by Santos linking Keng to former Chief Justice Renato Corona by allegedly lending his sports utility vehicle to Corona.

Eduarte said his office received Keng's complaint affidavit on October 13, 2017. However, the subpoenas though were only issued on January 10 — a day before SEC handed down its controversial decision.

Eduarte said Bitanga was included in the Rappler summons because there is an allegation against his interest or probability of his involvement.

Rappler story published before cybercrime law

Eduarte explained the 2012 article is still covered by the anti-cybercrime law even if the story was published on May 2012, long before the law was enacted. The Republic Act No. 10175 was approved on September 12, 2012.

He said Keng argued the story is still up on the website.

"Ang publication kasi ay continuous publication from 2012 until the time na nakita ito nung complainant natin. Even if it was posted first in 2012, but still can be seen sa time na nagreklamo sila or the time of the effectivity of cybercrime law. So ang aming presumption as investigation is concerned, they still violated the cybercrime law," Eduarte said.

The cybercrime division chief pointed out they are not compelling anyone of the three people summoned to appear before the NBI on January 22, but he hopes they will show up.

"Ito sana opportunity nila para mapakinggan namin," he said.

Ressa said she will comply with the subpoena and appear before the NBI on Monday.