Journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa and her news outlet Rappler Holdings Corporation gained victory in their final tax violation charge filed during the Duterte administration.
The Pasig Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 157 announced the acquittal of Ressa and Rappler Tuesday morning, with the last case linked to the company’s value-added tax return for the second quarter of 2015 amounting to about ₱300,000.
They are now cleared of all five tax violation charges, nearly five years after facing this bout under the Duterte regime. A veteran journalist, Ressa is known for being critical of then-President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration.
Last January, the Court of Tax Appeals also acquitted Ressa and Rappler of the other four tax violations stemming from allegations the company acquired taxable income that it did not declare, and thus incurred obligations when it issued Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) to foreign investors North Base Media and Omidyar Network in 2015.
Gallagher, meanwhile, said Ressa has been a victim of “lawfare” for doing her job as a journalist.
“The law has been wielded as a weapon against her in multiple ways, as the authorities have attempted to criminalize her and Rappler for years of hard-hitting reporting holding the powerful to account,” she said.
“Ressa still faces decades behind bars for her journalism,” she added. “The authorities must end this for once and for all, drop all remaining charges and concede Ms. Ressa’s cyber libel appeal.”
Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos were found guilty of cyber libel in 2020. The case stemmed from a 2012 Rappler article which reported on businessman Wilfredo Keng’s alleged connection to illegal activities.
Keng filed the complaint in October 2017, or nearly five years after the article was posted.