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

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Wednesday, April 3rd, 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.

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Amal Clooney to represent Rappler’s Maria Ressa

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 9th, 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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SC yet to discuss Rappler’s petition to cover Malacanang – CJ Bersamin

by Maris Federez   |   Posted on Saturday, April 13th, 2019

Suprerme Court of the Philippines

The Supreme Court can no longer deliberate on the petition of Rappler reporters for them to be allowed to cover news in Malacañang.

Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said that the next en banc session of the Supreme Court justices is on May 3 and it is only then that they will be able to discuss on the said petition.

“Iyong pag-akyat namin sa Baguio natapos na namin iyong mga naka-schedule na kaso namin sa en banc but mahirap lamang na ipagpatuloy namin sa Abril ng Holy week at pagbibigyan namin ang mga miyembro ng Supreme Court na magnilay [We have already finished the cases scheduled in the en banc session in Baguio (City), we just cannot continue as next week is Holy Week. We have to give the members of the Supreme Court to reflect],” the Chief Justice said.

On Thursday, April 11, several Rappler reporters appealed before the Supreme Court to step in and stop Malacanang from barring them from covering the President and his activities.

Rappler said such prohibition is a violation of their press freedom. – Maris Federez

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Tax amnesty for delinquent accounts to start April 24

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) issued on Tuesday (April 9) the official guidelines of the much-awaited tax amnesty program in the country.

Signed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar Dulay, Revenue Regulations (RR) 4-2019 lays down the application process of tax amnesty for delinquent accounts up to year 2017.

Applications will begin on April 24, or 15 days after it was published in a newspaper of general circulation on Tuesday.

Republic Act (RA) No. 11213 or the Tax Amnesty Act of 2019 offers delinquent taxpayers one year to file their request for amnesty signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in February this year.

It covers all national taxes including capital gains tax, documentary stamp tax, donor’s tax, excise tax, income tax, percentage tax, value-added tax (VAT), and withholding tax.

Under the law, varying rates apply per classification of delinquencies charged to the basic tax.

Delinquent accounts and tax assessments that have become final and executory will have an amnesty rate of 40% of the basic tax assessed.

Tax cases that have been decided by the courts will have to settle 50% of the basic assessment.

Accounts with pending criminal cases can choose to settle by paying 60% of the assessment.

In the case of withholding agents that withheld taxes but did not remit them to the BIR, they will pay 100 percent of the basic tax assessed.

Unremitted withholding taxes or non-remittance of personal income tax deducted from employees must be paid in full or 100% of the basic tax assessed.

RR 4-2019 requires applicants for the tax amnesty on delinquencies to submit the following:

  • Tax Amnesty Return
  • Duly-validated Acceptance Payment Form
  • Certificate of Tax Delinquencies/Tax Liabilities issued by the concerned BIR offices
  • A copy of the assessment found in the Final Assessment Notice/Final Decision on Disputed Assessment (when necessary).

Applicants must check first the procedures for application and the specific BIR offices where each taxpayer classification can be filed.

According to RR 4-2019, taxpayers who avail of the amnesty “shall be considered settled, and the criminal case in connection therewith and its corresponding civil or administrative case, if applicable, shall be terminated.”

“The taxpayer shall be immune from all suits or actions, including the payment of said delinquency or assessment, as well as additions thereto, and from all appurtenant civil, criminal. and administrative cases, and penalties under the 1997 Tax Code, as amended, as such relate to the internal revenue taxes for taxable years that are subject of the tax amnesty availed of,” it further said.

“The availment of the tax amnesty on delinquencies herein provided and the issuance of the corresponding Acceptance Payment Form do not imply any admission of criminal, civil or administrative liability on the part of the availing taxpayer,” it added.

During its one-year implementation, the amnesty delinquencies is expected to generate P21.26 billion in revenue. – Marje Pelayo

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