Maria Ressa arrested at airport, slams 'travesty of justice'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 29 2019 07:19 AM | Updated as of Mar 29 2019 12:58 PM

Maria Ressa, head of Philippine news website Rappler, is seen with police upon arrival at Manila airport on Friday March 29, 2019 in this handout photo. Leanne Jazul, Rappler/Handout via Reuters

MANILA - Rappler chief Maria Ressa was arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, early Friday, a day after a court issued an arrest warrant in connection with her alleged violation of the Anti-Dummy Law.

Two female police officials served the warrant to Ressa after she landed at the country's main gateway at around 7 a.m.

"Will they actually arrest me again?! @rapplerdotcom this is insane. Such violations of the Bill of Rights and the PH Constitution," Ressa said in a tweet shortly after she was confronted by the police.

Ressa also posted a photo of her riding a vehicle while being transported to the Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 265.

The same court issued the warrant, Thursday, a day before Ressa returned from her San Francisco trip.

"It's kind of interesting, I have 9 policemen escorting me along with my trusty lawyer," Ressa told ANC's Early Edition.

"This is a travesty of justice. I have done nothing wrong. I am not a criminal. I am treated like a criminal," she said.

The case stemmed from a National Bureau of Investigation complaint related to the issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts to Omidyar Network, an Indonesian company that invested in the online news website.

 

"Coming home to confront yet another ridiculous criminal case. I didn’t expect the PH government to make my joke about collecting arrest warrants a reality. This will be my 7th. For being a journalist. All these acts violating the Bill of Rights will be remembered," the Rappler chief said in tweet before flying back to Manila.

Under the Constitution, media entities in the Philippines must be 100 percent Filipino-owned.

Rappler belied the allegations that it was being controlled by a foreign entity, but the Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that the news website was not fully-owned by Filipinos.

"The grant of control to a foreign entity over a mass media entity, regardless of the actual exercise of such foreign control, is already considered a violation," the court said in its ruling.

Ressa is facing at least 9 other cases including libel, cyber libel and multiple counts of tax evasion.

The libel complaint was filed in connection with several Rappler reports that exposed a supposed labor conflict within the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in 2017.

Ressa is also facing cyber libel charges over a Rappler article that claimed that businessman Wilfredo Keng's luxury vehicle was used by former Chief Justice Renato Corona during the impeachment proceedings against him.

Ressa assured she would not run from any of the cases lodged against her and her news company.

"I will not run away from any of this charges because I want to mark every single action the Philippine government takes," she said.

"It shows you how intolerant of journalists this government is. This is another press freedom issue," she said.

"We draw the line. If that line is crossed, we are no longer a democracy," she added,

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mentioned that Ressa was arrested Friday over a tax evasion case. We regret the error.