Home statements ICHRP Welcomes Acquittal of Maria Ressa in Philippine Tax Evasion Case

ICHRP Welcomes Acquittal of Maria Ressa in Philippine Tax Evasion Case

ICHRP Welcomes Acquittal of Maria Ressa in Philippine Tax Evasion Case

Media Statement

September 16, 2023

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) welcomes journalist and Nobel Prize recipient Maria Ressa’s acquittal from a Philippine tax evasion case. The decision was promulgated by the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 157 on September 12.

“Ressa’s acquittal serves not just a victory for Philippine news website Rappler, but also for journalism and democracy at large. This legal triumph proves the politically motivated character of the charges, which sought to silence those who were critical of the grave human rights violations of the Duterte administration,” said Peter Murphy, Chairperson of the ICHRP Global Council.

“While we welcome this development, in no way does it absolve the Duterte government of the crimes it perpetrated against the Philippine press. It must be remembered that his administration was openly hostile to the media, resulting in countless attacks on journalists and on press freedom,” continued Murphy.

It should be noted that while Ressa and Rappler have emerged victorious on their fifth and last tax evasion case, Rappler still faces two charges—an appeal on its closure order before the Philippine Court of Appeals, and a pending appeal on a cyber libel case before the Philippine Supreme Court. Under Ressa’s leadership, Rappler was consistently critical of Duterte’s policies, especially his infamous “war on drugs”. This attracted the administration’s ire and prompted a string of legal attacks intended to silence and intimidate all journalists critical of his brutal regime.

Ressa’s acquittal is a small but important victory among the numerous cases of attacks against the press under the Duterte government. As documented by INVESTIGATE PH, his government saw the killing of 23 journalists, the shutdown of free-to-air broadcasts by media giant ABS-CBN, and the threat to sue Philippine Daily Inquirer journalist Tetch Torres-Tupas over her report on 2 indigenous peoples who were the first to be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act. 

This war on dissent has continued with no let up under the Marcos Jr. government. Some of the prominent cases include the brutal slay of broadcaster Percy Lapid on October 3, 2022, the ambush which led to the killing of editorial cartoonist Benharl Kahil on November 5, 2022, and Rappler journalist Frank Cimatu’s conviction of cyber libel on December 14, 2022.

“We call on the Marcos Jr. government to cease forthwith its abuse of the judicial process and its entire policy of political repression. It must actively put a stop to the attacks not just on press freedom but also on anyone who is critical of its policies. The Philippine government should stop making trumped-up charges against those who are defending the rights of the oppressed people. ICHRP will continue to keep watch and expose the Philippine government’s human rights and international humanitarian law violations,” concluded Murphy.

For comment: Peter Murphy, Chairperson, ICHRP Global Council +61 418 312 301