Philippine Outlet Rappler and its CEO Acquitted of Tax Evasion Charges

Published: 14 September 2023

Maria Ressa UNMaria Ressa, 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, is the co-founder and CEO of Rappler. (Photo: UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré, Flickr, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

After a five-years-long process, a Philippine court acquitted on Tuesday the news outlet Rappler Holdings Corporation and its CEO, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, of the last tax evasion charge filed by the country's former president Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte’s administration initiated in 2018 five tax evasion cases against Rappler. The last one accused the outlet of failing to provide tax information in 2015 involving an amount of approximately US$11,000.

The other four tax evasion charges were acquitted in the Philippine Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) in January.

“Former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte followed a model of autocrats around the world who use complex and confusing foreign ownership and tax laws to attack the independent press,” Can Yeginsu, deputy chair of the high-level panel of legal experts on media freedom told Rappler.

Rappler and Ressa still face two other court procedures - an appeal against a shutdown order and another appeal against a conviction for cyber defamation. Ressa’s lawyer stated that she still faces over 30 years of prison for this charge.

Tuesday’s acquittal “is a victory not just for Rappler but for everyone who has kept the faith that a free and responsible press empowers communities and strengthens democracy. We share this with our colleagues in the industry who have been besieged by relentless online attacks, unjust arrests and detentions, and red-tagging that have resulted in physical harm. We share this with Filipinos doing business for social good but who, like us, have suffered at the hands of oppressive governments” Rappler stated.

“These cases were just meant to harass and intimidate us and we just kept going,” Ressa said.