Ressa, Rappler cleared of fifth tax evasion charge

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Ressa, Rappler cleared of fifth tax evasion charge
Philippine journalist and Nobel laureate Maria Ressa reacts outside the Pasig Regional Trial Court following her acquittal in a tax evasion case in Pasig, Metro Manila on September 12, 2023.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — A Pasig court acquitted Nobel laureate Maria Ressa and her newsroom Rappler Holdings Corporation of tax evasion case on Tuesday, marking another legal victory for the veteran journalist. 

This development means that Ressa and RHC have been cleared of all five tax evasion charges filed during the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte. 

In January, the Court of Tax Appeals also acquitted Ressa and RHC of four tax-related charges, as the prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. 

The tax evasion charges stemmed from a 2015 sale of Philippine depositary receipts to foreign investors, a method companies use to raise money.

In a statement, Rappler said that the court victory is not only for the newsroom but also for those who kept the faith “that a free and responsible press empowers communities and strengthens democracy.”

“We share this with our colleagues in the industry who have been besieged by relentless online attacks, unjust arrests and detentions, and red-tagging that have resulted in physical harm,” the news outlet said.

Rappler and its CEO are still facing two cases. Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. were convicted of cyber libel in 2020, and have since appealed to overturn the ruling. 

Rappler is also challenging a Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission closure order at the Court of Appeals. 

The Philippines ranked 132nd out of 180 countries in this year’s World Press Freedom Index, with the watchdog Reporters Without Borders saying it continues to be among the world’s “most dangerous” places for journalists. — with report from Kristine Joy Patag

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