Stop politicizing case vs. Rappler, Palace tells UN rapporteur

MANILA -- MalacaAang scolded a United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur for politicizing the tax evasion charges filed against Rappler Holdings Corp. and its chief executive officer, Maria Ressa, noting that the case had nothing to do with threats to freedom of expression.

We expect the UN representative to be more circumspect instead of politicizing a crime and ignoring its gravity and assaulting the sovereignty of our country, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press statement on Saturday.

Panelo made this remark after UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye described the tax evasion charges against Rappler and Ressa as an "attempt to silence the news outlet's independent reporting.

Kaye further said that the case is a "serious threat" against journalism and asked the government to drop charges against Rappler and Ressa.

Panelo, however, said that Kaye's statement showed how a UN Rapporteur has again barged into the legal and judicial process in the Philippines.

Without the benefit of factual information, Mr. Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, has called on the government to drop the tax evasion charges against Rappler and its head, Maria Ressa, contending falsely that the same constitutes censorship, Panelo said.

Panelo emphasized the gravity of tax evasion as a serious offense in the Philippines and worldwide.

For Mr. Kaye's enlightenment, tax evasion is a serious offense not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well. The case against the media outfit has absolutely nothing to do with the freedom of expression, Panelo said.

Panelo pointed out that Rappler, being a media entity, and Ressa, being a journalist, cannot shield them from criminal prosecution when they violate the law.

He said since Rappler and Ressa have been formally charged it shows that there is a court of competent jurisdiction that has found probable cause against them.

Thriving media

Panelo, meanwhile, reiterated that freedom of expression is thriving because Rappler and its reporters continue to publish articles against the Duterte administration.

The fact that Rappler and its reporters continue to publish articles of dissent against this Administration is an eloquent testimonial, Panelo said.

The fact that detractors and critics of the President continue to air their protests in various media platforms against our policies is another irrefutable proof, he added.

Panelo also reminded the UN rapporteur that should there be cases of censorship people are always free to seek redress from the courts.

At present, he said there are no reports of such cases, stressing that "the right to express oneself is very much respected" in its jurisdiction.

Earlier, Ressa has been accused of failing to declare "correct and accurate" information in quarterly sales receipts from RHC's issuance and sale of Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) worth PHP2.45 million.

Ressa has asked a Pasig court to reject the charges filed against her and Rappler.

Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 265 Judge Danilo Buemio rescheduled Ressa's arraignment to Feb. 6, 2019 after Ressa's defense counsels filed a motion to dismiss the charges against her and RHC.

Panelo denied that the cases filed against Ressa and Rappler are acts of persecution by the executive department.

He assured that MalacaAang will never interfere with the function of the judiciary as well as the other branches of government. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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