A court in the Philippines acquitted journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa as well as Rappler Holdings Corporation, a media company that she owns, of tax evasion charges, news outlets reported.
“Today, facts win. Truth wins. These charges were politically motivated. We were able to prove that Rappler is not a tax evader,” Ressa was quoted as saying by news agencies.Ressa, shared the Nobel with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov in 2021.The tax evasion charges against the prominent journalist and her news media company were filed in 2018 when the Philippines was under the Rodrigo Duterte regime.Ressa and several other observers claimed that the charges were filed because she and her media company were vocal against the war on drugs campaign launched by the Duterte regime. It also has been critical of the regime and has exposed misgovernance in the southeast Asian country through its investigative reports.
The Court of Tax Appeals, First Division, confirmed that prosecutors failed to prove “beyond reasonable doubt" that Ressa and Rappler Holdings Corp. had evaded paying income taxes owed.
The Philippine revenue agency in 2018 alleged that the Rappler media company omitted from its tax returns the proceeds of a 2015 sale of depository receipts to foreign investors. The Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission used this as an excuse to revoke Rappler’s license.
A report by Rappler cited Ressa’s lawyer Francis Lim, the former president of the Philippine Stock Exchange, who said that if Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) were declared to be taxable income and made tools to convict Ressa and her media company, it would affect every business seeking to raise capital.Justice Catherine Triunfante Manahan, Justice Jean Bacorro-Villena, and Justice Marian Ivy Reyes-Fajardo were the judges who presided over the court proceedings.
Even though Ressa and Rappler have won the Philippines’ Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) case, there are three active court cases against Rappler and Ressa.
“An adverse decision would have had far-reaching repercussions on both the press and the capital markets … With you we will continue to #HoldTheLine,” Rappler said in a statement.
However, Rappler is fighting the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission order to close it for allegedly violating a constitutional ban on foreign ownership in media still poses a challenge to its smooth running.
Rappler is accused of allowing foreigners to take control of its website through its parent company Rappler Holdings’ issuance of “depositary receipts". The case springs from a 2015 investment by the US-based Omidyar Network, established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, news agency AFP reported.
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