An award-winning Philippine journalist who along with the online news service she heads has been sued for tax evasion has declared her innocence and was freed on bail Monday after turning herself in for arrest.
Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher for Human Rights Watch said Monday that "the charges filed against Rappler and its editor and founder, Maria Ressa, are politically motivated and part of the Duterte administration's campaign to harass, threaten and intimidate critics".
"We have repeatedly said that we never and will never interfere with the function of the judiciary as well as the other branch. If the judiciary finds probable cause for information filed, then we have to respect the law on the matter".
After posting bail, Ressa said "now is certainly not the time to be afraid", according to The Guardian.
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"How can they be persecuted? It's a question of tax evasion, you violate tax laws then you will be prosecuted", Panelo told reporters.
Mr Vincent Peyregne, Wan-Ifra CEO, said: "These fabricated charges are nothing more than a politicised attempt to silence independent journalism and remove accountability from those perpetuating violence and intimidation against their own people".
"The Constitution also says every person charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise by competent evidence beyond reasonable doubt, proof". "The attacks on Rappler are consistent with the way the Duterte administration has treated other "drug war" critics", he said.
Ressa was overseas when the charges against Rappler were first announced, but she vowed to return to the Philippines and fight them, even if that meant doing so from a prison cell.
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On February 20, Rappler's Malacanang reporter Pia Ranada-Robles was not allowed to enter the Palace premises by an officer of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), citing orders from "higher-ups".
A Philippine court has granted bail to the top executive of a news website known for its critical reporting of the president's policies.
A guard opens a door at the office of Rappler in Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines Jan 15, 2018.
When asked if the President may be setting a bad example on children who might hear his speeches, Panelo said the President "has set a good example by being a good leader".
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The Department of Justice in October indicted the executive, Maria Ressa, and online news platform Rappler (www.rappler.com), for attempting to evade taxes by not reporting gains of nearly $3 million in the company's 2015 tax returns.