Malacanang reminds critics: Cyberlibel Act passed under Aquino Administration

Marje Pelayo   •   June 16, 2020   •   1373

MANILA, Philippines –  Malacañang defends President Rodrigo Duterte against critics alleging the Chief Executive of curtailing press freedom with the conviction of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the President has never charged a journalist in court and that the existing Cyberlibel Act that convicted Maria Ressa was enacted not under his term but under the term of former President Benigno Aquino III. 

“Hindi po administrasyon ni President Rodrigo Duterte ang nagsulong ng Cyberlibel Act (kundi ang) administrasyon po ni President Noynoy Aquino [It was not the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte that pushed for the Cyberlibel Act but it was the administration of President Noynoy Aquino],” Roque noted.

Despite criticisms, the Palace said it is acknowledging the court’s decision on Ressa’s case and so it urges the public to do the same. 

Afterall, Roque said, Ressa and her co-accused, former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr., may still appeal the case in the higher courts.

READ: Court convicts Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, ex-researcher writer for cyberlibel

Ressa and Santos were allowed to post bail for the case and were given 15 days to appeal the verdict.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the court ruling calling the arraignment a ‘dark day’ not only for the independent media in the Philippines but to all Filipino people.

This is a dark day not only for independent Philippine media but for all Filipinos,” the group said.

“The verdict basically kills freedom of speech and of the press,” it added.

But the group of journalists said the verdict will never be a reason for them to stop their fight for press freedom.

“But we will not be cowed. We will continue to stand our ground against all attempts to suppress our freedoms,” the NUJP said. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Amal Clooney to represent Rappler’s Maria Ressa

Marje Pelayo   •   July 9, 2019

(L-R) Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney

MANILA, Philippines – International human rights lawyers Amal Clooney and Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC will join Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s legal team.

In a statement, Clooney expressed confidence in Maria Ressa as a ‘courageous’ journalist “who is being persecuted for reporting the news and standing up to human rights abuses.”

Ressa is currently facing several criminal cases including tax evasion and cyberlibel.

Together with her team, Clooney promised to protect the rights of journalists in the country with their handling of Ressa’s charges.

“We will pursue all available legal remedies to vindicate her rights and defend press freedom and the rule of law in the Philippines,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ressa said she is ‘delighted’ by Clooney and her team’s willingness to help in her case.

“I have been targeted and attacked simply for being an independent journalist,” Ressa said in a statement.

“I am delighted that Amal Clooney and her team will be representing me at the international level to challenge the violations of my rights and those of the media organization I represent,” the embattled journalist added.

Clooney and Gallagher, both specializing in international law and human rights, are members of the Doughty Street Chambers law firm. – with details from Mai Bermudez

Rappler’s Maria Ressa pleads not guilty to tax evasion charges

Marje Pelayo   •   April 3, 2019

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa | Image grabbed from a Reuters video

REUTERS – Rappler CEO Maria Ressa pleaded not guilty on Wednesday (April 3) to tax evasion charges.

Ressa maintained that the tax dodging case, as well as the other cases filed against her and online news platform Rappler, were “politically motivated”.

“I still say that these cases are all politically motivated. Where in the world do you come home on a Friday, get arrested, post bail and on a Monday, get another arrest warrant and post bail again. I’ve been arrested twice in a little over a month and a week or so, right?” Ressa told reporters.

“It’s clear but we will fight every single one, and hope for the integrity of the men and women who will handle these cases, and that they go as well as today,” she added.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) in October indicted Ressa, and online news platform Rappler, for attempting to evade taxes by not reporting gains of almost $3 million in the company’s 2015 tax returns.

Ressa was served an arrest warrant over a libel case live on television in February and spent a night in detention before she was released.

She was arrested again last Friday (March 29) on charges she had violated foreign ownership rules. She was later freed by the court after she posted bail.

“It’s very serious for me. Each charge, there are four different charges, and each charge could carry a prison penalty from two to 10 years, so altogether 40 years, so it’s real, it’s very real, it’s the first arraignment of 11 investigations and cases against Rappler,” the embattled journalist said.

Rappler CEO Ressa posts bail for anti-Dummy Law charges

Robie de Guzman   •   March 29, 2019

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler news site Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Maria Ressa has been released after posting a P90,000 bail before the Pasig Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 265 on Friday (March 29).

Ressa was arrested earlier upon arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) from San Francisco, California in relation with her alleged violation of the Anti-Dummy Law and the Securities Regulations Code (SRC).

Pasig RTC Judge Acerey Pacheco issued the warrant for Ressa’s arrest.

READ:  Rappler CEO Maria Ressa arrested at NAIA

The case stemmed from a complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against Rappler news site over the issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) to foreign company, Omidyar Network, which has investments in Rappler’s operations.

Such is a violation of the 1987 Constitution, according to the complaint, as media entities in the Philippines must be 100 percent Filipino-owned. This brought up the allegation that Rappler was being controller by foreign entities.

Rappler has maintained that the allegations are not true even after the Court of Appeals ruled that the news website was not fully-owned by Filipinos.

This is the seventh time that Ressa has been arrested and the 11th case filed against Rappler.

The veteran journalist said her arrest, along with five members of Rappler’s 2016 board, sends a “bad signal” to the world, especially the business sector.

READ: Ressa, six other Rappler Execs face charges anew over anti-dummy law violation

“Apparently, the Philippine government with arresting just me, the fact that they also included upstanding, successful, tech entrepreneurs and businessmen, this is a bad signal to send to the rest of the world,” she told reporters outside the Pasig RTC shortly after she was released.

Malacañang, meanwhile, told Ressa to stop complaining about arrests, insisting that the legal cases against her are not attacks on press freedom.

“She cannot be complaining that this is again a violation of press freedom. Press freedom has nothing to do with the charges against Ms. Ressa,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a Palace press briefing.

“She’s charged of a crime and there is a determination of probable cause, hence, a warrant of arrest has been issued,” he added.

Panelo also pointed out that the issuance of warrant of arrest against Ressa proves that the government was observing due process in all the cases filed against Rappler.

He said that Ressa should instead focus on her cases and quit using press freedom as an excuse to attack the government.

“She should concentrate on defending herself in court. She cannot be always using the freedom of the press as an excuse to attack the administration,” the Palace official said. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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