Appeals court OKs Ressa's travel plea to receive Nobel

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Appeals court OKs Ressa's travel plea to receive Nobel
This file photo taken on March 29, 2019 shows Philippine journalist Maria Ressa waving to photographers after posting bail outside a court building in Manila. The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on October 8, 2021 to journalists Maria Ressa (Philippines) and Dmitry Muratov (Russia).
AFP / Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals has granted Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s request to be allowed to travel to Norway to personally receive her Nobel Peace Prize.

The CA Special Seventh Division granted Ressa’s Urgent Motion to Travel and leave for Oslo, Norway from December 8 to 13, “only for the purpose of attending the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony.”

The CA held that Ressa’s travel to Norway is “necessary and urgent,” and that she is “not a flight risk.”

Ressa, however, must first return to the Philippines on December 2 from the United States, where she was previously allowed to attend a series of lectures at the Harvard University and visit her family.

Ressa is currently on post-conviction bail and is seeking the reversal of the Manila court’s conviction before the CA.

Ressa, Rappler CEO, won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, for being "representatives of all journalists who stand up for [freedom of expression] in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions."

Not a flight risk

In its ruling dated December 3, the CA said: “A thorough review of the present urgent Motion to Travel Abroad shows that Ressa successfully proved that her intended travel to Oslo, Norway, from December 8, 2021 to December 13, 2021, is necessary and urgent.”

The CA also said that the confirmation and invitation letter for Ressa clearly indicates that the awarding will be conducted physically and Nobel laureate is expected to receive it in person — refuting claims by the Office of the Solicitor General in its opposition.

OSG lawyers opposed Ressa’s motion to travel and claimed that she is considered a flight risk, as supposedly seen in her “recurring criticisms of the Philippine legal processes.” Government lawyers also said the purpose cited by Ressa “does not show compelling reason for the court to permit her travel.”

But the CA pointed out that it already deemed that Ressa is not a flight risk in its October 18, 2021 resolution, and the finding remains true when she filed her latest motion to travel.

“While Ressa has yet to comply with the conditions imposed on her fifth Urgent Motion to Travel Abroad, specifically, to return to the Philippines after her engagement in the U.S.A. on December 2, 2021, any allegation that Ressa would be absconding is merely speculative at this moment,” the court also said.

It also noted that Ressa submitted to the court a confirming itinerary of her return and has committed that she will inform the court of her arrival to the Philippines. “Indeed, these show that Ressa intends to immediately return the conclusion of the Nobel Peace Prize Award ceremony,” it said.

“Considering that Ressa has proved that her intended travel is necessary and urgent, and she is not a flight risk, there is no reason to deny the Urgent Motion to Travel Abroad,” the ruling read.

The CA, however, said it cannot consider Ressa’s alternative prayer to extend her stay in the US until December 8 to fly from there to Norway. This means that she has to return to the Philippines on December 2, and inform the Court within 24 hours as indicated in the previous ruling.

Associate Justice Geraldine Fiel-Macaraig wrote the decision, with concurrences from Associate Justices Ruben Reynaldo Roxas and Raymond Reynold Lauigan.

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