Journalist critical of Duterte pays bail

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Maria Ressa is the CEO of Rappler. AFP

Journalist critical of Duterte pays bail

The journalist who leads a news site that has battled Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte paid a cash bail on Monday on a tax fraud charge she says is an effort to intimidate the publication.

Maria Ressa’s Rappler has been hit by a string of government efforts to shut it down since the site took a critical tone on Duterte, in particular his internationally condemned drug war that has killed thousands.

Ressa surrendered to a Manila court on Monday, posted the equivalent of $1,100 and was ordered to return on Friday for arraignment on charges that Rappler provided false information to tax authorities.

“They [the charges] are politically motivated and . . . they are manufactured,” she told journalists outside court. “Rappler pays the right taxes.”

Campaigners condemned the charge, which is one of several tax fraud cases the government filed against Rappler and Ressa last week while she was out of the country.

The charges are “part of the Duterte administration’s campaign to harass, threaten and intimidate critics,” said Human Rights Watch Philippines researcher Carlos Conde.

“The attacks on Rappler are consistent with the way the Duterte administration has treated other ‘drug war’ critics,” he said.

Duterte bristles at criticism of his signature campaign to rid the nation of drugs, which police say has killed nearly 5,000 alleged dealers and users who resisted arrest.

Some of the crackdown’s highest profile critics have wound up behind bars, including Senator Leila de Lima, who is jailed on drug charges she insists were fabricated to silence her.

The government accuses Rappler Holdings Corp, Ressa and the site’s accountant of failing to pay taxes on 2015 bond sales that it alleges netted gains of 162.5 million pesos ($3.1 million).

The bonds, called Philippine Depositary Receipts, are at the heart of a case that led the Philippines’ corporate watchdog to void the news site’s corporate licence in January.

Duterte has also attacked other media outfits that criticise him, including top newspaper the Philippine Daily Inquirer and major broadcaster ABS-CBN, threatening to also go after their owners over alleged unpaid taxes.

The government said the charges were the consequence of wrongdoing. “You violate tax laws, then you will be prosecuted,” said Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo.

MOST VIEWED

  • Malaysia MP accused of ‘influencing law’

    Malaysian Member of Parliament (MP) Larry Sng arrived in Siem Reap early on Wednesday, in what was slammed by one NGO as efforts by Kuala Lumpur to “influence Cambodian law”. The Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh requested on January 30 “cooperation from the Ministry of Foreign

  • Ministries begin measures to offset EU’s EBA decision

    In the wake of the EU’s controversial announcement this week that it has begun the withdrawal process for Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential agreement, government ministries and political analysts continued to share their reactions and economic mitigation plans in preparation for the

  • Emirates launches route connecting Phnom Penh, Bangkok

    Emirates will launch a daily service on June 1 linking Phnom Penh (PNH) and Bangkok (BKK). The service from Phnom Penh to Dubai, via Bangkok, will provide more flight options to passengers travelling between the capitals of Cambodia and Thailand. Travellers from the Southeast Asian nations

  • US Embassy urged to stop ‘disrespecting sovereignty’

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation called on the US Embassy in Phnom Penh on Saturday to respect the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations after it called former opposition leader Kem Sokha “an innocent man” – a move deemed to be “disrespecting Cambodia’s