Court acquits Rappler, Maria Ressa of tax evasion

Maria Ressa during a hearing in Manila (Bulatlat file photo)

By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The Court of Tax Appeals acquitted Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC), and its CEO Maria Ressa of four tax evasion charges filed against them by the Duterte administration in 2018.

In a decision, the CTA’s First Division stated that the prosecution had failed “to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”

The charges were filed four years ago by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), accusing Rappler of having evaded tax payments after it generated capital through foreign investments.

The government stated that Rappler failed  to supply the correct information in its value-added tax returns and income tax refunds in 2015. Both the BIR and the DOJ argued that the company’s issuance of Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs) had enabled the company to acquire an undeclared income.

Ressa welcomed the decision, saying that the charges were “a brazen abuse of power, and is a clear political harassment against journalists trying to hold those in power to account.”

“Today, facts win. Truth wins. Justice wins,” said the Nobel Peace Prize awardee.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also lauded the CTA’s decision, and said that the acquittal was a result of Ressa and Rappler’s resoluteness and perseverance in the face of the cases.

“While colleagues similarly face legal challenges — from libel to made-up terrorism charges —  in relation to their work, we take inspiration from this acquittal that if we stand up and hold the line, we can win,” NUJP stated.

Altermidya Network also welcomed the  decision, describing the tax evasion charges “as a textbook example of weaponization of the law against independent media.”

“While we welcome the junking of the charges, we should highlight that ‘lawfare’ remains in play, with Rappler and Ressa still facing several spurious cases,” said AlterMidya.

The network of alternative media in the Philippines also brought to fore the continuing attacks against their ranks, including the trumped-up charges against several community journalists, including Frenchie Mae Cumpio, who remains in jail for nearly three years now.

Read: Frenchie Mae Cumpio’s brave truth-telling

“Today’s acquittal serves as a welcome ray of hope in our continued fight for press freedom. We call on the Philippine media community and all freedom-loving Filipinos to continue resisting attacks against free expression and the people’s right to know,” AlterMidya said. (JJE, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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