Ressa pleads not guilty to tax code violation case

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Ressa pleads not guilty to tax code violation case
Philippine journalist Maria Ressa (C) speaks during a press conference after attending the court's verdict promulgation in Manila on June 15, 2020. Ressa was convicted on June 15 of cyber libel and sentenced to prison in a case that watchdogs say marks a dangerous erosion of press freedom under President Rodrigo Duterte.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — Embattled veteran journalist Maria Ressa returned to court on Wednesday, a month after she was found guilty over cyber libel. This time, it was for a tax violation case.

Ressa stood before Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 157 for arraignment in a tax code violation case. She pleaded not guilty.

In November 2018, the Department of Justice found probable cause to charge Ressa for allegedly failing to supply correct information in its Value Added Tax return for the second quarter tax year of 2015.

Ressa, CEO of the online news site, was accused of violating Section 255 of the Tax Code.

In the charge sheet, the DOJ said: “By then and there, failing to report therein the total quarterly sales receipts coming from the issue and sales receipts and coming from the issue and sale by RHC of Philippine Depositary Receipts.”

State prosecutors said RHC acted as a dealer in securities when it sold PDRs worth P2.4 million, and should be taxed with P294,258.58. They argued that the amount should be reflected in its tax returns.

The Rappler CEO tweeted that the court set P1 million for travel bond, for the case involving an amount of more than P200,000.

Ressa is also facing other four other tax-related cases at the Court of Tax Appeals.

Cyber libel conviction

The arraignment comes after last June 15, the Manila RTC Branch 46 found Ressa and Rappler’s former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. guilty for cyber libel. This was over a 2012 article first published May, or months before the institution of the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

Ressa and Santos are out after the post-conviction bail. They have since filed a motion for reconsideration to overturn the court’s conviction.

Ressa slammed the string of cases filed against her and her media company as harrassment and an attack against press freedom.

Malacañang has maintained that the Palace had nothing to do with the cases against Rappler and Ressa.

It has also denied that Rappler's legal issues have anything to do with press freedom despite statements and warnings from journalists' and civil society groups that the cases are an attempt to silence critical reporting of the Duterte administration.

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