UPDATE MANILA, Philippines — A Pasig court on Tuesday acquitted Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC) of tax evasion.
The ruling was promulgated by Branch 157 of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court, presided over by Judge Ana Teresa T. Cornejo-Tomacruz. The ruling came eight months after the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) acquitted Ressa and RHC of four counts of tax evasion.
READ: Rappler and Maria Ressa acquitted of tax evasion charges
Ressa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 alongside a Russian journalist, is the head of Rappler, known for its rigorous examination of former President Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly war on drugs.
After announcing the verdict, Ressa told reporters she felt “good” about the court’s decision.
“We share this with our industry colleagues who have been besieged by relentless online attacks, unjust arrests and detentions, and red-tagging that have resulted in physical harm,” Rappler also said in a statement.
“All of the dismissed tax cases were based on the false and flimsy assumption that when Rappler issued Philippine Depositary Receipts in 2015, it was not raising capital but making a taxable profit, which it allegedly did not have declared voluntarily. We are happy that the court understood this,” he added.
With the dismissal of the tax case, two cases remain against Rappler: the appeal on the cyber-defamation case pending before the Supreme Court and the appeal on the order closing Rappler before the Court of Appeal .
Ressa, 59, is currently out on bail and was convicted in 2020 of cyber-defamation in one of several cases brought against the website by government agencies. She maintained that these cases were politically motivated.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., in office for 14 months, said he would not intervene in the legal proceedings against Rappler.
Rappler is still operating unimpeded pending its appeal against a shutdown order from the securities regulator.
The Philippines is ranked 132 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, describing its media as “extremely vibrant despite targeted government attacks and constant harassment” against “overly critical journalists.”
Maria Ressa’s acquittal on tax evasion charges is a “victory for free and provocative journalism” — Hontiveros
The Tax Court of Appeal confirms the acquittal of Maria Ressa
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