MANILA -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte does not personally know Wilfredo Keng, the businessman who filed a libel case against Rappler Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa, Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo defended Duterte from having connection to Keng after a report from the Pinoy Ako Blog claimed that the businessman owned a mining company which the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) allowed to operate.
Keng, president of Century Peak Metal Holdings Corp., also reportedly cornered a reclamation project in Cavite.
“Even assuming that those facts you stated are correct, it doesn’t follow that the President will know this particular person. You must remember that the policy of the President is he does not interfere with the Department heads relative to their governance of their departments,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
Panelo said the President never micro-managed any of the departments and only interfered when its officials are reported to be involved in corruption.
“The only time that he would interfere in any governance among departments is when there is a complaint reaching his office that there is an anomaly or any corruption involved in that particular transaction,” he added.
Panelo said Duterte was not even aware about Keng’s reclamation project.
“Sinabi nga ni Presidente (the President said), ‘I don’t even know the facts of this case, I don’t even know who he is. I don’t know about the case,’” Panelo said.
Panelo added that Ressa has all the legal remedies that they can exhaust to protect her rights as a journalist but seems wanting for “special treatment”.
“Ang naging problema yata kay Maria eh she wants a special treatment, eh hindi naman pupuwede iyon, lahat tayo ay pantay-pantay (The problem with Maria is she wants special treatment, but it can't be, we’re all equal),” Panelo said.
In 2017, Keng filed a cyber libel complaint against Ressa and Rappler after he was named as the owner of a sports utility vehicle used by the late Chief Justice Renato Corona in the article titled, "CJ using SUVs of 'controversial' businessmen” published on its website.
Keng had asked Rappler to take down the article for failing to get his side or confirm allegations against him.
Earlier, Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), in a statement, said that it was Keng’s right to file charges against Ressa over the controversial news article.
Following efforts of the task force to lead discussions for a consolidated position on the decriminalization of libel, Panelo said he personally prefers a civil suit describing libel as “an ordinary crime”. (PNA)
Photo from ABS-CBN News