Manila court imposes P500,000 travel bond for Rappler’s Maria Ressa

Lian Buan
After an urgent motion Thursday afternoon, the court decides to reduce the bond to P100,000 per travel or P300,000 overall

LIBEL CHARGE. Rappler CEO and executive editor during her detention the NBI Cybercrime Division office on February 13, 2019, after her arrest for cyber libel charge. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) initially imposed a P500,000 ($9,480) travel bond on Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa over her cyber libel charge before the court.

Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa on Thursday morning, March 14, granted Ressa’s motion to travel overseas in March and April but subject to a half a million bond. (READ: Timeline: Rappler’s cyber libel case)

After an urgent motion filed Thursday afternoon asking to reduce the bond for being excessive, Branch 46 brought it down to P100,000 per travel or P300,000 overall (about $6,000). 

“The bond has been reduced to 100k per travel. We’re just waiting now for the receipt and the order to 100k per travel,” said Ressa’s counsel, human rights lawyer Ted Te.

Te had asked the bond to be reduced to an amount between P50,000 to P100,000.

Travel bonds are discretionary upon the court.

‘Excessive and disproportionate’

Ressa and former Rappler researcher Rey Santos were charged with cyber libel over a 2012 article that was published before the enactment of the cybercrime law.

In his urgent motion Thursday afternoon seeking to reduce the initial bond of P500,000.00, Te said the amount was “excessive and disproportionate.” 

“It is excessive and disproportionate because it is five times the amount of bail posted for accused-movant’s provisional right to liberty, which is also guaranteed under the 1987 Constitution,” read Ressa’s urgent motion.

Mike Arroyo, Trillanes bonds

For example, the last time that frequent traveler Mike Arroyo secured a travel authority from the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, he was imposed a travel bond of P90,000.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV posted a P200,000 travel bond at the Makati RTC for rebellion charges.

The bond amount depends on assessment of flight risk. 

“Ms. Ressa’s track record with travel to and from the country has been exemplary in terms of her compliance with all previous conditions. She is not a flight risk and there is nothing to indicate that she is such,” said Te’s motion on her behalf.

The motion noted that the Pasig RTC and the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA), where Ressa faces her tax charges, did not impose a P500,000 travel bond on the journalist when they granted her motions to travel.

The motion argued that Manila RTC Branch 46’s travel bond violates Ressa’s right to equal protection of the law. 

Ressa posted a P100,000 bail  for the cyber libel charge, her 6th ongoing court case since January 2018 when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) attempted to close down Rappler in a revocation order that has since been remanded to them for evaluaton by the Court of Appeals. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.