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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Ressa NOT sentenced to 15 years for cyber libel

FB groups falsely claimed that Rappler CEO Maria Ressa has been sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment after the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed her cyber libel conviction.

Jul 18, 2022

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Several Facebook (FB) groups, pages and a netizen falsely claimed that Rappler CEO Maria Ressa has been sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment after the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed her cyber libel conviction.

A 2019 photo of Ressa posting bail over charges of violating the anti-dummy law was posted on July 12, with a caption: Maria Ressa to Maria Rehas na, NOBEL PRIZE to NO BAIL PRIZE, 6 years na kulong naging 15 years na. Patong patong na kc kawalanyaan (sic) nito. (Maria Ressa to Maria [in jail], Nobel prize to No bail prize, 6-year sentence in prison to 15 years. It’s because her shamelessness is getting too much.)”

Ressa’s sentence has not been extended to 15 years. In a 41-page ruling, the CA affirmed the decision of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 to convict Ressa and a former Rappler staffer for cyber libel.

The CA Fourth Division also modified the initial jail sentence of six months and a day to six years, extending it up to six years, eight months and 20 days.

In the same decision, the CA concluded that, since the Cybercrime Law increased the penalty for libel by one degree, the penalty becomes “afflictive” and complaints for cyber libel may still be filed up to 15 years after publication.

In a July 8 statement following the CA ruling, Rappler stated that both Ressa and the former Rappler staff will “avail of all legal remedies available to them, including elevating the decision to the Supreme Court for review.”

The erroneous posts appeared after the CA decision was released. At least 73 FB groups and pages spread the false claim and garnered over 75,000 interactions according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.

Have you seen any dubious claims, photos, memes, or online posts that you want us to verify? Fill out this reader request form.

Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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