Maria Ressa, Rappler execs charged over alleged Anti-Dummy Law violation

Rappler’s news room. Photo: ABS-CBN News.
Rappler’s news room. Photo: ABS-CBN News.

Maria Ressa and other executives of news website Rappler were slapped with another charge yesterday, this time for allegedly violating the Anti-Dummy Law.

The Pasig City Prosecutors Office charged Ressa, Rappler’s CEO and executive editor, along with Managing Editor Glenda Gloria and 2016 Rappler board members Manuel Ayala, Nico Jose Nolledo, James Bitangca, Felicia Atienza, and James Velasquez.

According to Rappler, the complaint against Jose Maria Hofileña, its former corporate secretary, was dropped.

They were accused of allegedly violating the Constitution’s requirement for all mass media to be 100 percent Filipino-owned. The Anti-Dummy Law penalizes those who evade laws on the nationalization of certain rights, franchises, or privileges.

This is still in connection to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) declaring that Omidyar Network’s investments in Rappler are considered foreign ownership even though they were made through Philippine Depository Receipts (PDRs), an instrument that allows foreign companies to invest in Philippine companies without actually gaining ownership. This led to the revocation of Rappler’s certificate registration in January last year.

According to Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Randy Esteban, the PDRs allowed Omidyar to “intervene in the management, operation, administration or control of Rappler,” The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

All the Rappler executives charged have each posted bail worth PHP90,000 (US$1,705.28), except Ressa who is out of the country.

Their arraignment is scheduled for April 10, Wednesday at 8:30am at the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 265.

Apart from the Anti-Dummy Law charges, Ressa and the other Rappler executives were also charged for allegedly violating the Securities Regulations Code (SRC). The case is being re-raffled and the bail was set to PHP126,000 (US$2,387.39), ABS-CBN News reported.

Ressa is also set to be arraigned on April 3, Wednesday at 8:30am for tax cases that also stemmed from the PDRs.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) had said that issuing the PDRs to Omidyar constitutes as selling securities, alleging that Rappler earned taxable income from them.

Ressa is facing one count of tax evasion and three counts for allegedly declaring incorrect and inaccurate information on the company’s income tax return in 2015 and value-added tax returns in the 3rd and 4th quarters of the same year.

Just last month, Ressa was also arrested and detained overnight at the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) headquarters for a cyber libel charge.

Rappler and Ressa maintain that these charges from the government are politically motivated. Duterte has slammed Rappler publicly multiple times for its reports on the administration.

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