On November 28, Maria Ressa, Chief Executive Officer of Philippine news website Rappler, was issued a warrant for her arrest. The government accused her of five counts of tax fraud and was to be arrested on her return to the Philippines. At that time, Ressa was in the U.S. where she received the Knight International Journalism Award and the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award.
Maria Ressa and Rappler are known to be vocal critics of President Rodrigo Duterte and his war on drugs. The move to arrest Ressa is the latest in what may be a direct attack by Duterte’s regime on news organizations that have been criticized the government in the past.
“How do I feel about being arrested?” she told reporters on her arrival last Sunday night. “Well, number one, I’m going to hold my government accountable for publicly calling me a criminal.” She deemed the accusations as a clear case of harassment, but is not afraid to challenge them
She said that arrest warrant made her feel vulnerable, “But I think that’s the point, right? The point is for the government to actually make you feel its power and that it can do what it wants to do, including bending the law to the point that it’s broken.”
The following day, Ressa surrendered herself to the authorities at Pasic city regional trial court where she posted bail, which was set at 60,000 pesos. “I surrendered to the court this morning, went through the process of what a criminal would go through, and filed bail without surrendering my right to question the Pasig court’s jurisdiction over this tax case,” she said.
Maria Ressa’s next court appearance is scheduled for December 7, where she faces a potential 10-year prison term.
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