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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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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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Rappler CEO Ressa posts bail for anti-Dummy Law charges

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, March 29th, 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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