While Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is putting her education in theatre to good use by perpetuating a victim narrative regarding her lawful arrest by Philippine authorities earlier this week, there is actually a genuine victim in the entire saga and his honour ought to be upheld, not least because of what he has had to endure for nearly six years. His name is Wilfredo D. Keng and he is a respected Filipino businessman who had his name traduced by Rappler in an article originally published in 2012, before it was updated in 2014.
In the article in question, Rappler insinuates that Keng was involved in a number of illegal activities including the trafficking of narcotics and the trafficking of human beings. These serious allegations were not backed up by any evidence and as such, there is no reason why they should believed. Keng has therefore decided to take legal action against Rappler in order to clear his name and receive justice after the disgusting allegations have remained online (as they do to this day) on Rappler’s website.
Drug trafficking and human trafficking are among the most heinous crimes known to mankind. To be falsely accused of engaging in such activity is therefore an intense emotional and professionally damaging burden – one that most people could scarcely imagine. But this is the hell that Wilfredo Keng has had to endure because of the malicious character assignation he has been subjected to. Of course, as someone viciously lied about by Rappler, I am in a strong position to express the profoundest sympathy to Mr. Keng.
And yet, Keng is a man who ought to be receiving universal sympathy at this difficult time in his life. A man has nothing if he does not have his name and Rappler’s mendacious attack represents a fundamental theft of a good man’s honour. Wilfredo Keng has released his own thoughtful statement on his legal action against Rappler. It is a statement that should be read the world over and is printed below in its entirety:
“Of the many virtues guarded by democratic nations, justice and protection against libelous speech may well be the most difficult to attain. Apart from the unfortunate reality that necessary legal machinery may be inaccessible to many, technology and modernity have so drastically changed the information highway such that information-sharing has become virtually and instantaneously boundless – both global in reach and perpetual in duration.
It is for this reason that now, more than ever, democratic freedoms such as those of speech and of the press must all the more be vigilantly balanced against the standards of responsible exercise and accountability, as well as the dictates of conscience, justice and the truth, lest they serve to oppress rather than liberate the citizens whose lives they are meant to enhance.
It is for this same reason that I am deeply grateful that after the conduct of a lengthy, careful and meticulous investigation, the Department of Justice has categorically resolved to criminally charge Rappler, Inc., Maria Angelita Ressa and Reynaldo Santos, Jr. with cyber libel in court because of their publication of clearly defamatory statements against me through their online news platform, the penalty for which crime is imprisonment for a minimum of four years, two months and one day to a maximum of eight years.
While I am aware that this vindication is but the start of what may be a long and arduous process, I am committed to see this legal battle to the very end. Upon seeing the libelous article and prior to resorting to judicial remedies, I tried to formally and informally communicate with Rappler in order to have the said article taken down, clear my name and restore my reputation, at least, to the extent possible given the fact that irreparable damage had already been done, multiplied a million-fold because Rappler’s website continues to be accessible by the whole world. In turn, Rappler, likewise through formal and informal channels, repeatedly promised me that they will take down the subject article, but never did. The libelous attacks remain posted on their website until now.
Rappler, Ressa and Santos never attempted to obtain my side on the crimes they wrongly imputed to me or to fact-check their baseless attacks against my name. I have never had a criminal record. For almost four decades since I started working, I have consistently secured official clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation certifying that I have never been involved in any criminal case and have never had any criminal history. Since the 1980’s, I have never been investigated by or summoned before any law enforcement agency in connection with any alleged criminal act, much less have I been indicted, arrested, detained or convicted of any crime in the Philippines. Further, the National Bureau of Investigation, as the central repository and chief administrator of the country’s criminal history records, would never have found in my favor and filed the complaint against Rappler, along with its concerned officers and reporter, for cyber libel concerning defamatory imputation of crime if had any criminal record or history in their files.
Against this kind of limitless harassment and wanton disregard for the rule of law, I was left with no other choice but to file a case and seek protection from our courts. To date, the perpetrators have not once denied having published clear defamations against me but simply continue to hide behind a single claim: that unfortunately for me, I allegedly can no longer complain.
Rappler, Ressa and Santos continue to hold themselves high above any accountability to provide credible and justifiable reason for why they continue to harass an ordinary private citizen and businessman despite having absolutely no basis for their claims. What is their motive? With one click of a button, they destroyed my reputation and endangered my life.
They attempt to mislead the public by releasing “news” that my complaint against them was purportedly “dismissed” by the National Bureau of Investigation, knowing absolutely well that it is the National Bureau of Investigation itself which filed the complaint for cyber libel against Rappler, Ressa, Santos and other named individuals before the Department of Justice. Rappler’s inaccurate, nay reckless, reports and statements continue to be quoted by other news outfits, thereby perpetuating the clearly incorrect version of the said story. Such reckless, premature and inaccurate reporting on official government processes reek of actual malice and cyber bullying and border on the intentional propagation of “fake news”.
It is thus high time that we remember that the foundation of our independence, democracy and freedom is based on one simple truth: no one is above the law. As I pursue this case to its just conclusion, I pray that the dispensation of justice be lawful and swift in recognition of the global platform of the perpetrators, the length of time the libelous statements against me have remained available for the entire world to see, and other factors which exponentially threaten my life, limb, property, health, well-being and peace of mind. I further hope to not just seek remedy and redress for myself and my family, but to move all other victims of cyber libel and cyber bullying to stand up and seek just and legal action.
In the end, this story is not just about an ordinary suit filed by a private and hardworking citizen to clear his name. It is, in reality, a test case on the how the Philippine legal and judicial system will fare against the dangerous precedent that is being set by one reckless and irresponsible member of the media and of the online community. If left unaccountable, Rappler, Ressa and Santos’ example of impunity will be emulated and replicated, and will destroy not just individual lives but our entire country.
May Justice and Truth continue to be on our side”.
Beyond defending his virtue before the world through legal means, Mr. Keng is fighting a battle for anyone who has been traduced in public through vicious lies. Mr. Keng is fighting not only for his justice but for those whose own voices have been silenced by the powerful. Mr. Keng is a successful businessman, but he is fighting for the little guy, for the underdog, for the righteous and as such, he deserves not only sympathy but applause.