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

Marje Pelayo   •   April 3, 2019   •   1607

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.

Malacanang reminds critics: Cyberlibel Act passed under Aquino Administration

Marje Pelayo   •   June 16, 2020

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)

Panelo to file libel charges against INQUIRER.net, Rappler

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 3, 2019

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo has announced he will file libel charges against online publications INQUIRER.net and Rappler.

This is due to their “malicious” reports about Panelo’s referral letter on former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez’s executive clemency plea.

According to Panelo, the same media outlets reported that he “recommended” the release of the former mayor. He clarified that he only “referred” it to the Bureau of Pardons and Parole (BPP).

READ: BPP: Panelo referred Sanchez’s clemency application

He is referring to Rappler’s article, “Panelo endorsed Sanchez’s letter for executive clemency.” INQUIRER.net also posted a tweet on the same issue.

“As I earlier said in the press briefing this morning, those articles are reeking with malice and it’s libelous in nature because it tends to impute an act to discredit me in public and to tarnish my honor,” he said.

“In view of this, I’m filing a libel case against net Inquirer and Rappler for publishing these malicious articles,” he added.

Panelo also said they are already drafting the said complaints.

In a statement, Rappler said the complaint is merely a diversionary tactic.

Rappler also calls on Panelo to answer the questions about his possible conflicts of interest.—AAC

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

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