Fresh off plane, Rappler's Ressa booked by Pasig police

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Fresh off plane, Rappler's Ressa booked by Pasig police
Philippine journalist Maria Ressa (2nd R), is escorted by police after an arrest warrant was served, shortly after arriving at the international airport in Manila on March 29, 2019. Ressa, a prominent critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested on a fraud charge, a colleague said on Ressa, a prominent critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested March 29 on a fraud charge, a colleague said.

MANILA, Philippines — Veteran journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa was arrested on Friday morning and is in the process of posting bail for her provisional liberty over anti-dummy charges before a Pasig court.

The news site said the arrest is part of a "pattern of harassment against Rappler that started in January 2018."

Rappler reported that Ressa was arrested by Pasig City police after arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 early Friday morning. The cops were armed with a warrant of arrest issued by the Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 265 dated March 28.

READ: Rappler's Ressa, six others face charges over anti-dummy law violation

Anti-dummy case

The charges against Ressa and six others on Rappler’s board are over the alleged violation of the Anti-Dummy Law or Commonwealth 107 and the Securities and Regulations Code.

A copy of the full resolution has yet to be released to the members of the public.

According a report by The STAR, the case stemmed from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ruling that ordered the cancellation of the certificate of incorporation of the online news site and Omidyar’s Philippine Depository Receipts.

Rappler is accused of violating the constitutional restrictions on ownership and control of mass media entities because it supposedly received a donation from Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar.

PDRs are instruments that give foreign investors a passive economic interest in a Philippine company.

The Court of Appeals has ordered to SEC to review Omidyar’s donation, and the legal effect of the “alleged supervening donation” on whether it has mitigated, if not cured, the violation the commission had earlier found.

Pasig RTC Branch 265 is handling the Anti-Dummy violation charge, while the case on the alleged violation of the Securities and Regulations Code was raffled off to Pasig RTC Branch 158.

Ressa’s co-accused paid bail on the Anti-Dummy charge on Wednesday, ahead of the issuance of a warrant, but the high-profile journalist was out of the country then for speaking engagements.

They have yet to pay bail for the Securities and Regulations Code violation—pegged at P126,000 for each accused—before Pasig RTC Branch 158.

The bail amount for the anti-dummy and SEC violation charges for Ressa and other members of Rappler’s board brings the amount to P1.512 million.

‘Rappler is Duterte’s whipping boy’

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, reacting to the arrest, said that the online news outfit “has clearly become the whipping boy of the Duterte administration as it seeks to silence and intimidate the independent and critical press.”

“This case against Ressa and members of her board is unprecedented and speaks volumes of the Duterte administration’s determination to shut the website down for its credible and consistent reporting on the government, particularly the 'drug war,'" said Carlos Conde, Human Rights Watch Asia Division researcher. 

He added: "The administration has shown a relentlessness in its persecution of government critics unseen since the time of the Marcos dictatorship."

Conde also called for the dropping of cases against Ressa, Rappler and her colleagues.

President Rodrigo Duterte has lambasted Rappler and other media agencies, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN, for their “biased” reporting against his government.

The Palace has repeatedly distanced itself from the cases against the online news site whil also disputing claims that the charges are related to Rappler's reporting.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo had this to say when Ressa was arrested over the cyberlibel charge: "This has nothing to do with freedom of expression or the press. Regardless of who commits any crime he or she will be charged in accordance with the law." 

That arrest prompted journalists' groups and international organizations and personalities to voice their concern over the situation and support for Ressa and Rappler.

READ: Ressa arrest stirs condemnation, calls for due process from abroad

NUJP said on Friday that "this intolerant and vindictive government's ham-fisted efforts to humiliate Rappler and its officers and personnel have succeeded only in humiliating itself in the eyes of the world and everyone who values freedom and democracy."

"Let us all stand by Rappler and the community of independent Filipino journalists in resisting this administration's attempts to muzzle us and, in doing so, silence our people's voices and deprive them of the information they need to decide on their personal and collective futures," it also said.

Cases against Ressa, Rappler

The anti-dummy charge is the latest among the list of legal suits Ressa and her media company is facing.

Last month, authorities served a Manila court-issued arrest warrant against Ressa over a cyberlibel charge.

Ressa was detained at the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters for a night, before she was able to post bail worth P100,000 the following day.

The veteran journalist recalled that the bail for the cyberlibel charge was the sixth she had to pay.

On Dec. 11, 2018, Ressa paid P204,000 before the Court of Tax Appeals over four tax-related cases.

Another tax-related case, filed before a Pasig court, issued a warrant against Ressa on December. She paid P60,000 for the said charge.

Ressa also had to pay P300,000 as travel bond before the Manila court for her speaking engagements on March and April. She also paid P50,000 travel bond before the CTA.

Rappler, in a statement, pointed out that the this latest suit is the 7th active against Ressa and the 11th against the media company.

“This pattern of harassment against Rappler that started in January 2018, when the SEC issued an order revoking its license has not stopped,” they said.

“Issuing arrest warrants against them and journalists has a chilling effect on the freedom of speech, on business and innovation. Instead of encouraging business and media to pursue innovation, government is stifling such initiatives,” it added.



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