MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) has scheduled the arraignment of Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa on April 3 at 8:30am, denying the journalist’s appeal to hold off proceedings at the tax court.
Although the CTA already denied in February Ressa’s motion to dismiss the charges, Ressa argued once more that proceedings be at least halted pending her petition for review at the Department of Justice (DOJ).
A petition for review is the last appeal at the DOJ which will be handled by the justice department itself, either by an undersecretary or an assistant secretary, as opposed to the National Prosecution Service (NPS) which has, thus far, denied all of Rappler’s motions.
The CTA First Division said the Revised Rules of Court require that arraignments should not be deferred more than 60 days after the filing of the petition for review.
Ressa and Rappler filed their petition for review on January 30, 2019. “Accordingly, let these cases be set for arraignment of accused Maria Ressa and pre-trial on April 3, 2019, at 8:30 am,” said the CTA First Division in a resolution promulgated on March 21.
The 4 cases at the CTA involve Rappler Holding’s Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) that were issued to foreign investor Omidyar, which the DOJ said constituted taxable income that the news company did not declare in its taxes.
Ressa is facing one count of tax evasion and 3 counts of alleged violation of Section 255 of the Tax Code or failure to supply correct information in the Income Tax Return (ITR) for 2015, and Value Added Tax (VAT) returns for the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2015.
Ressa is charged for a 5th count at the Pasig Regional Trial Court (RTC) because the DOJ chose to file the last case there separately.
Ressa has a 6th charge for another case – cyber libel – at the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC), where she recently posted a P100,000-bail after her February 13 arrest.
A 7th complaint is pending before Pasig City prosecutors for alleged violation of the anti-dummy law, still related to the PDR.
All in all, there are 10 complaints and cases against Rappler, Ressa, its officers and reporters – filed in succession after President Rodrigo Duterte blasted Rappler in his July 2017 State of the Nation Address.
These legal battles put Ressa and Rappler on the list of the world’s top 10 most urgent media issues, according to the One Free Press Coalition. – Rappler.com