THE acquittal of Rappler chief executive officer and Nobel laureate Maria Ressa on four counts of tax evasion charges by the Court of Tax Appeals Wednesday, January 18, is not only a win for her or her newsroom but for journalists everywhere.
The case was filed in 2018, during the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte, who was then hellbent on muzzling the media.
The decision stated that the prosecution failed to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Rappler was accused of evading tax payments amounting to around P141 million when it increased its capital through a partnership with foreign investor North Base Media (NBM) and Omidyar Network (ON) involving the issuance to the two entities of Philippine Depositary Receipts or PDRs.
Ressa, in an interview with reporters, said: “Today, facts win, truth wins, justice wins.” Indeed, another pivotal date in the history of Philippine press was born.
“These charges were a brazen abuse of power, political harassment against journalists trying to hold power to account. This is where business, capital markets, and press freedom meet. So this victory is not just for Rappler, it’s for every Filipino who has ever been unjustly accused,” she said.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also welcomed the acquittal of Ressa and Rappler Holdings Corp., stressing that the cases illustrate the increasing use of the law for reprisal against and intimidation against journalists and civil society.
“While colleagues similarly face legal challenges—from libel to made-up terrorism charges—in relation to their work, we take inspiration from this acquittal that if we stand up and hold the line, we can win,” NUJP added.
We celebrate this win today, but we have to continue pushing back and holding the line tomorrow, and the following days.
The truth will always prevail.*
January 19, 2023
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