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OSG opposes Ressa's motion to travel to receive Nobel, says she's 'flight risk'

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
OSG opposes Ressa's motion to travel to receive Nobel, says she's 'flight risk'
Philippine journalist Maria Ressa speaks to members of the media as she arrives to a court in Manila on March 4, 2021, to testify for the first time to deny dodging taxes as authorities continue a crackdown against the country's independent media.
AFP / Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Solicitor General moved to block Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s motion to travel to receive her Nobel Peace Prize saying that she is a flight risk.

Ressa is seeking the nod of the Court of Appeals, where her appeal on the cyber libel conviction is pending, to allow her to travel to Oslo, Norway from December 8 to 13 to personally receive her Nobel Peace Prize and participate in other events to celebrate the award.

READ: Filipino journalist Ressa among Nobel Peace Prize winners

Ressa is currently on post-conviction bail and is seeking the reversal of the Manila court’s conviction before the CA. She is currently in the United States, after securing a grant from the courts to travel to attend a series of lectures and visit her family from October 31 to December 2.

In her latest motion, Ressa has also asked, as an alternative, the CA to amend her previous travel itinerary to extend her stay in the US until December 8 and fly to Norway from there. She would be arriving in Manila on December 13.

But the OSG filed an opposition to their motion, stressing that Ressa’s right to travel is not absolute, as it is regulated by constitutional, statutory and inherent limitations, but also inherent limitations.

The OSG also said the journalist is considered a flight risk, as supposedly seen in her “recurring criticisms of the Philippine legal processes.”

It added that the purpose cited by Ressa “does not show compelling reason for the court to permit her travel.”

“Plaintiff-appellee (OSG) is aware that Nobel Peace Prize is a prestigious award given to individuals who have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. However, it is respectfully submitted that accused-appellant Ressa has failed to present any compelling argument and/or evidence proving the necessity and urgency of her travel to Oslo, Norway,” the comment read.

The OSG said Ressa can attend through videoconferencing, as there was also no showing that her in-person attendance is necessary.

‘Flight risk argument illogical’

Ressa, through her lawyers, however, refuted the OSG’s claims that her pronouncements make her a flight risk, saying the argument is “not only without basis but also fundamentally dangerous.”

She stressed that she is guaranteed free speech and expression. The OSG’s claim also lacks a rational basis, as she noted that she has complied with her bail conditions and returned to the Philippines following her travel abroad.

Ressa also said the letter invitation to her made it clear that she is expected to attend the awarding in person, and attending via alternative means “simply fails to grapple with the actual invitation issued and the long-standing tradition of in-person attendance by Nobel Peace Prize laureates.”

She also said that the travel is necessary for the interest of the Philippines’ international standing, noting that absences of Novel Peace Prize laureates in 1936 and 2010 were “notorious examples of State conduct.”

“Were Ms. Ressa to be refused permission to travel, it is plain that this decision would attract international opprobrium and would severely damage the Philippines’ interests internationally. This is an additional relevant factor for the Court to consider, in the exercise of its discretion,” Ressa’s reply read.

COURT OF APPEALS JOSE CALIDA MARIA RESSA NOBEL PEACE PRIZE OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL RAPPLER
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