Journalist Maria Ressa pleads not guilty to tax-related cases

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa leaves her office after she was arrested in Manila on February 13, 2019. (Photo: Maria Tan, AFP)
Philippine journalist Maria Ressa leaves her office after she was arrested in Manila on February 13, 2019. (Photo: Maria Tan, AFP)

Rappler Chief Executive Officer and Executive Editor Maria Ressa pleaded not guilty today to tax-related charges at the Philippines’ Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) in Quezon City.

She made her plea before the first division of the CTA which was presided over by Justice Roman Del Rosario, reported ABS-CBN News.

Ressa was charged with three counts of violation of Section 255 of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) for allegedly providing incorrect information in Rappler’s income tax return and value-added tax returns for 2015, reported GMA News. She was also charged with tax evasion.

In a tweet posted earlier this morning, Ressa thanked her supporters and said she was hopeful she will get justice.

Ressa’s cases stem from the issuance of Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs) to Rappler’s foreign investor Omidyar four years ago. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Rappler allegedly did not declare a profit of PHP162.41 million (US$3.11million) from the issuance of these PDRs, reported The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Ressa’s hearing will start on May 15. The prosecution will present six witnesses and three sets of documentary evidence while Rappler will present PDRs and bank certificates, reported CNN Philippines.

Prior to this, Ressa posted bail for the eighth time at the Regional Trial Court in Pasig City on Monday after she and six other Rappler executives were charged with allegedly violating the Securities Regulation Code of the Philippines, reported Rappler. This is still in connection with the sale of PDRs to Omidyar.

She also posted bail on Friday morning after being arrested in Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport for allegedly violating the Philippines’ anti-dummy law.

The country’s anti-dummy law prevents foreign companies from managing a nationalized industry, such as mass media.

Rappler and Ressa have been at the receiving end of several cases, including cyber libel. Ressa said that the cases filed against them were politically-motivated due to Rappler’s fractious relationship with President Rodrigo Duterte.

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