Rappler chief arrested anew, posts bail

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By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter

ONLINE news site Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Angelita Ressa was released Friday upon posting P90,000 bail, following her latest arrest upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in connection with charges of violation of the Anti-Dummy Law.

Judge Maria Cheryl B. Laqui-Ceguera of Pasig City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 265 ordered Ms. Ressa’s release and scheduled her arraignment on April 10 at 8:30 a.m.

Ms. Ressa was first arrested on Feb. 13, in connection with her cyber libel case, but soon after posted bail.

Police served the latest arrest warrant issued by the Pasig court as soon as Ms. Ressa arrived at the airport from abroad.

She has been charged with violation of the Anti-Dummy Law in connection with Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) issued in 2015 to investing firm Omidyar Network Fund.

In February last year, Omidyar Network donated its PDRs valued at $1.5 million to Rappler staff following the SEC decision in January 2018 revoking the news site’s certificate of incorporation and declaring void the PDRs for being a “fraudulent transaction.”

Charged along with Ms. Ressa are Rappler Managing Editor Glenda M. Gloria and 2016 directors Manuel I. Ayala, Nico Jose Nolledo, James C. Bitanga, Felicia Atienza, and James Velasquez. They are all out on bail worth P90,000 each.

Information filed by the Pasig City Prosecutor’s Office said they “willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously” entered into a contract with Omidyar, “a foreign corporation, which is not allowed/proscribed by the Constitution.”

In a statement, Rappler said the issuing of arrest warrants against journalists “has a chilling effect on the freedom of speech, on business, and innovation.”

“This pattern of harassment against Rappler that started in January 2018, when the Securities and Exchange Commission issued an order revoking its license, has not stopped,” Rappler said.

“Initiated by the justice department, this latest case proves abuse of state power and the bending of the law to intimidate and harass critics,” the online news site added. “But journalists doing their jobs will not be intimidated. We will continue to #HoldTheLine.”

For his part, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a press conference, “She is charged of a crime, and there is a determination of probable cause, hence a warrant of arrest has been issued. She should concentrate on defending herself in court. She cannot be always using the freedom of the press as an excuse to attack the administration.”

The Court of Appeals, in a resolution in February, denied Rappler’s motion for partial reconsideration and remanded the case to the SEC, directing it to evaluate the legal effects of the donation of PDRs to Rappler’s staff.