Appeals court rejects Ressa motion to go to US for talks, press freedom award
In this February 2019 file photo, NBI agents from the cybercrime division arrest Ressa at her office in Pasig City over a cyber libel case filed by the Department of Justice.
The STAR/Manuel Tupas, file

Appeals court rejects Ressa motion to go to US for talks, press freedom award

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - August 19, 2020 - 7:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals rejected Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s motion to be allowed to leave the country for a series of events in the United States, saying her trip is unnecessary.

The CA’s Special Fourteenth Division threw out the motion filed by Ressa, who was convicted on cyber libel in June, to be allowed to leave for the US on late August, while her appeal remains pending.

Ressa and Rappler's former researcher Reynaldo Santos had elevated their case to the appeals court after the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 upheld its earlier ruling that convicted them on cyber libel. They are currently out on bail.

Ressa sought the CA’s nod to be allowed to leave for the US on August 23 and return on September 19, saying she intends to attend various events related to the theatrical release of and panel discussions on the “A Thousand Cuts” documentary.

She also said she is set to be conferred with the “2020 International Press Freedom Award” from the US National Press Club.

She cited that the Manila court previously allowed her to leave the country by posting a bail bond of P100,000 and committing to notify it within 24 hours of her return.

OSG opposition

The People of the Philippines, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, opposed her motion and said that while she was previously permitted to travel abroad, her conviction warrants stricter restriction.

The OSG also argued that Ressa made public statements “indicative of her lack of respect for the Philippine judicial system,” and also faces other charges. “According to the OSG, these circumstances, along with her views on the justice system, make her a flight risk,” the ruling made public on Wednesday read.

The OSG also said that there are other ways that would allow Ressa to participate in the events without her needing to leave the country.

The court’s ruling

The CA said that while liberty of travel is a constitutional right, it is not absolute. “[T]he bail puts the accused under the jurisdiction of the court, and it operates as a valid restriction on a person’s right to travel,” the ruling read.

The court also held that Ressa failed to show “necessity and urgency of her intended travel” to the United States. It said it took note of the OSG’s argument that traveling to the United States is not necessary as Ressa can participate through video conferencing and other technological applications.

“In view of Ressa’s failure to prove that her travel to the United States of America is necessary and urgent, there is no basis to grant her motion,” the ruling, penned by Associate Justice Geraldine Fiel-Macaraig, read.

Associate Justices Danton Bueser and Carlito Calpatura concurred with the decision.

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