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Ressa’s cyber libel case ‘unrelated’ to freedom of expression — Malacañang

by admin   |   Posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2019

File photo: Rappler CEO, Maria Ressa

Malacañang clarified that freedom of speech does not end with the arrest of Maria Ressa, CEO and executive editor of Rappler, an online news network critical of the Duterte government.

“Freedom of expression, as critics of this administration erroneously suggest, is absolutely unrelated with Ms. Ressa’s probable violation of the country’s laws,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement.

Ressa was served an arrest warrant Wednesday afternoon (February 13) at the Rappler headquarters in connection with cyber libel charges.

The warrant was issued by Manila Regional Trial Court Presiding Judge Rainelda H. Estacio-Montesa after finding probable cause in the complaint filed by businessman Wilfredo D. Keng about a story published by Rappler which linked him to the illegal drug trade.

Panelo assured that the Duterte administration will not interfere in the case as it has “always respected the Judiciary on how it handles cases pending before its courts.”

He added that Ressa should “welcome” the chance to defend herself and “be heard before the court of law.”

“We are a country of laws and every citizen must adhere to the rule of law. No one is above the law, not even high profile self-anointed crusading journalists. Whatever the outcome is, it must be respected by everyone for such is the law. This is how the rule of law work,” Panelo said in a statement. —UNTV News and Rescue

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DOJ joins hunt for personalities behind “real narco list” videos

by Maris Federez   |   Posted on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has joined the hunt for alias Bikoy and the other personalities behind the “Totoong Narco List” [real narco list] videos.

The said videos implicated Presidential son Paolo Duterte, President Rodrigo Duterte’s common-law wife Honeylet Avanceña, and former Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, in illegal drug trade.

DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra had also ordered the department’s fact-finding team to conduct an investigation on the identity of the people behind the series of videos and to file possible criminal cases against them.

Guevarra said, “I have given instructions to the DOJ Office of Cybercrime to coordinate with the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) cybercrime unit and find out the source of these videos.”

The justice secretary further stated that the criminal charges will depend on the acts committed, such as cyber libel or similar offense.

Aside from the DOJ-initiated investigation, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is also conducting a separate probe on the said videos. – Maris Federez

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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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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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