Philippines responds to EU Parliament call to drop criminal and tax evasion charges against journalist Maria Ressa

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The European Parliament passed a resolution during the last Thursday session calling on the Philippines government to drop criminal and tax evasion charges against journalist Maria Ressa. Ressa, the founder and CEO of the online news service Rappler, and Reynaldo Santos Jr., a former Rappler staffer, were found guilty of “cyber libel” by a Manila trial court in June.


the “legitimacy of the criminal charges against Rappler and Ms. Ressa for their violations to the anti-dummy law, securities code, income tax law, and the cyber libel, for which she was convicted, are founded on the Philippines’ jurisprudence and constitution. To claim that these are being utilized to silence and intimidate them, and that of other violators, would be a total disregard to the rule of law and due process as prescribed by our constitution.”

In response to the EU call, the Philippines Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement that “human rights, freedom of speech, and media freedom, among others, are vital and essential foundations in a democracy, an ideal that a country like ours values very much. These democratic facets, especially the plurality of voices, remain vibrant and alive under the administration of President Duterte, where we welcome and encourage all Filipinos to exercise their inherent rights for us to improve and implement better social services and socio-economic policies for our collective growth and development.

“Claims that there are attempts to silence critics, including some media, are wholly unfounded as we remain in continuation, since 2016, of breaking the global stigma placed on the Philippines as one of the deadliest and worst places for journalists and media workers in the world as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders.”

He further added that “the administration has undertaken initiatives and endeavors that promote media protection and rights, such as the creation of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) and the Republic Act No. 114581 or the Expanded Sotto Law. Such attainment for a better status year by year on the list has been recognized by diplomatic delegations, including the European Union.”

Andanar pointed out in the statement that these successes on the part of the administration has been tainted by certain groups and individuals that continue to promulgate “unfounded, unverified, and baseless allegations that have caused Filipinos, international organizations, and foreign governments to believe in these false impressions and information of the current state of the Philippines under President Duterte. Among such proponents are Ms. Maria Ressa and Rappler.”

cyber defamation

Despite the journalist’s claims that the law is being “weaponized”, “she continues to enjoy her inherent right to express her beliefs and thoughts, whether they be verified or not. Her continued allegations against the administration are being done deliberately to escape from her legal obligations.” the statement said.

Furthermore, the statement emphasized that the “legitimacy of the criminal charges against Rappler and Ms. Ressa for their violations to the anti-dummy law, securities code, income tax law, and the cyber libel, for which she was convicted, are founded on the Philippines’ jurisprudence and constitution. To claim that these are being utilized to silence and intimidate them, and that of other violators, would be a total disregard to the rule of law and due process as prescribed by our constitution.”

“Her (Ms. Ressa) continued allegations against the administration are being done deliberately to escape from her legal obligations.

“The freedom of expression and press freedom have never been and will never be curtailed by the Duterte administration. This as we continue to promote our shared democratic ideals with the international community. In fact, the Philippines continues to enjoy a plurality of voices, expression, opinions, and beliefs; hence, the continued operations of Rappler and Ms. Ressa’s pursuit for self-justification in response to their legal obligations.” Sec. Anadanar concluded.

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