Maria Ressa slams government's 'abuse of power,' rights violation in arrest


Posted at Feb 15 2019 11:35 AM | Updated as of Feb 15 2019 08:15 PM

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MANILA - Saying her rights were violated, journalist Maria Ressa on Friday scored government for 'abuse of power' in taking her into custody and alleged anomalies against the arrest warrant served her Wednesday over a cyber libel charge. 

Ressa, CEO of news website Rappler, said the warrant "looked rushed or on purpose" did not contain information on the bail she had to post for temporary liberty. 

It was also served after 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, when the courts, which process bail, had closed. She said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had 10 days to effect her arrest. 

"In other cases, we get warnings and I posted bail for it. I’m no flight risk, I came home specifically to face this," she told ANC's Headstart.

"I’m here, I could have stayed in the office. In fact, I could have fought this out because technically, they didn’t have the right to take me to the NBI that night. I could have just stayed in the office and posted bail in the office," she said.

NBI agents left the Rappler office with Ressa around 7 p.m. that night and brought her to their Manila headquarters. 

She said her lawyers were at the Pasay night court around the same time, but "the judge refused to take the bail even though he had the legal responsibility, he had jurisdiction."

"It seems the government was bent on having me spend the night in detention. It’s okay, I slept on a chair and it’s not the worst that I have been through," she said.

"If the purpose is to make me feel the government has power, I think what they have achieved is to make me realize that the government will go to all lengths to abuse its power to violate my rights," she added.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said Ressa's camp could have anticipated and preempted her arrest by posting the bail bond after her indictment about two weeks ago. 

But JJ Disini, Ressa's counsel, said the justice chief was mistaken because the information was filed in court only on Feb. 6.

"We could not have known that the case was filed because the Department of Justice doesn’t notify the accused when the information is filed in court, there is no process for that," he said in the same interview.

Disini said the judge handling the case was not in her court on Feb. 7 and 8, so the first opportunity for the judge to look at the matter was Feb. 12, the same day the arrest warrant was issued.

The NBI had the full day of Feb. 13 to serve it to Ressa but chose to do it after office hours, he pointed out.

Their camp also attempted to arrive at an agreement to have Ressa surrender to the court the following day, but the NBI agents refused, he said.

"It would seem that circumstances have conspired to prevent Maria from posting bail at the earliest opportunity," he said. 

Ressa managed to post bail around noon on Thursday. 

Ressa and Rappler are also facing a separate tax suit. The site's incorporation certificate was revoked in 2018 for allegedly violating the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership of mass media.

She has slammed the cases and acts of the state against her and the news site as attempts to curtail press freedom. 

Several local and international organizations, prominent journalists and rights advocates also scored her arrest.