Maria Ressa pleads not guilty to anti-dummy charge

Lian Buan

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Maria Ressa pleads not guilty to anti-dummy charge
Trial begins on August 22

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa was arraigned on Thursday, May 2, over one count of violating the Ant-Dummy Law.

Ressa pleaded not guilty before Pasig Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 265 Judge Acerey Pacheco. 

Rappler managing editor Glenda M. Gloria, and 4 other members of Rappler’s 2016 board, namely Manuel Ayala, Nico Jose Nolledo, James Velasquez, and Felicia Atienza were previously arraigned on April 10, where they also pleaded pleaded not guilty..

James Bitanga remains to be arraigned, but Judge Pacheco terminated the pre-trial on Thursday pending the final pre-trial order. A warrant of arrest has been issued against Bitanga; all the others have posted bail.

Trial will begin on August 22, according to Gloria.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) will present two witnesses from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), two from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and one still unidentified, the same lawyers said. 

After the hearing, Ressa told reporters to focus attention on what she said are continuing attacks against the press.

“But I want to call attention to the ongoing and continuing attacks against independent media, it is sinister, it is insiduous and extremely dangerous. This is weaponization of the law against us,” Ressa said.

Ressa mentioned the cyber attacks against websites of alternative media such as Altermidya, Bulatlat and Kodao; the red-tagging of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP); and the matrix that linked media groups like Vera Files, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), and Rappler to an alleged ouster plot.

The anti-dummy charge is the 8th active court case against Ressa and the 11th overall against Rappler and its reporters and personnel. Ressa was arrested over the anti-dummy charge on March 29 upon arriving from a trip abroad.

It became the 8th because a separate charge for violating the the Securities Regulation Code was split from the anti-dummy and raffled to another court upon the orders of Judge Pacheco who said it should be a commercial court that should handle it.

The charge for violating the Securities Regulation Code is being handled by Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 158 Judge Rowena Modesto San Pedro, who issued an arrest warrant on April 1, over which Ressa and the board members paid bail as well.

The charges stem from the SEC’s findings that the Philippine Depositary Receipts issued by Rappler to Omidyar Network violated the constitutional ban against foreign ownership in media companies.

Rappler has maintained that PDRs are legal financial instruments that have been resorted to by other media and do not constitute foreign ownership. 

Rappler questioned the SEC’s order before the Court of Appeals (CA), which has ruled twice that the commission should reevaluate its order given Omidyar’s donation of its shares to Rappler’s managers. (READ: Omidyar donates PDRs to Filipino managers) –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.