Maria Ressa was charged again—this time for violating the anti-dummy law, moments after she arrived at the National Aquino International Airport (NAIA) early Friday morning, March 29.
The Rappler CEO and executive director was served a warrant of arrest Terminal 1 of the airport by the Pasig police personnel, taking her and her lawyer on board in the police car.
The Pasig Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 265 issued on Thursday, March 28, the arrest warrant against Ressa.
“To any officer of the law, you are hereby commanded to arrest the person Maria Angelita Ressa who is to be found at (address redacted) or elsewhere and who stand charged before me of the crime of violation of Section 2-A of Commonwealth Act No. 108 or the Anti-Dummy Law,” said Judge Acerey Pacheco in the arrest order.
Ressa’s co-defendants in the charge, including Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria, and members of the company’s 2016 board, paid the bail.
Defendants can pay bail ahead of a warrant to avoid inconvenience. Ressa was abroad when charges were filed.
She is out on a travel bond on her other charges before 3 different courts.
Ressa, Gloria and the 2016 board members are also charged of one count each of violating the Securities Regulation Code and the Anti Dummy Law. But Judge Pacheco ordered that they be re-raffled to a special commercial court.
They were raffled on Thursday to Branch 158 under Judge Maria Rowena Modesto San Pedro. Bail for the Securities Regulation Code offense was set at P128,000 (US $2,441) each.
11th case against Rappler
The charges began from a complaint by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which said that Rappler violated the Anti-Dummy Law for issuing Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) to foreign investor Omidyar Network.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has attempted to shut down Rappler in 2018 over the PDRs which it said amounted to foreign control.
In its two rulings on the case in July 2018 and February 2019, the Court of Appeals (CA) said that the SEC had basis to question the clause but also stressed that Rappler should have been given time to address it.
The SEC prior the said dates revoked Rappler's registration for violating the constitutional requirement for mass media to be 100-percent Filipino owned because of the participation of Omidyar Network to hold Philippine Depositary receipts (PDRs).
In denying Rappler's appeal, the appellate court said the news website failed to raise any new argument.
"A motion for reconsideration grounded on arguments already submitted to the court and found to be without merit may be denied summarily, as it would be a useless ritual for this Court to reiterate itself," the court said in its decision.
The court also reiterated its order to the SEC to evaluate the "legal effect" of Omidyar Network's donation of all its PDRs to Rappler staff.
"It is incumbent upon the SEC to evaluate the terms and conditions of said alleged supervening donation and its legal effect, particularly, whether the same has the effect of mitigating, if not curing, the violation it found petitioners to have committed," the court said.
The CA remanded the case to the commission, ordering it to reevaluate its decision given Omidyar's donation of its shares to Rappler's Filipino managers.
This is the 7th active court case against Ressa, and the 11th case overall against Rappler, its directors, and staff since January 2018, when the SEC tried to shut the company down.
In a statement, Rappler expressed trust that the rule of law would be observed.
"We expect the SEC to now review its order and we continue to trust that the rule of law will be followed under a democratic government," it said.
Rappler has repeatedly maintained that it is "completely Filipino-owned."
The netizens again took cover for Ressa and Rappler, calling it a display of force to hinder all the critics of the administration.
Last February, an unjust timing to arrest Resa took place at the Rapplers HQ for a libel cases published in 2014. The social media solicited various reactions, but mostly condoning the authorities as predators of press freedom.
On Ressa, the veteran journalist is known to be a staunch critic of the administration, and the palace had also been very vocal with their conflict with her news organization, Rappler.
Since his presidential advent, President Rodrigo R. Duterte had many times indicted the news organization.
February last year, Rappler presidential beat reporter Pia Ranada was barred from the palace as ordered by Duterte himself according to a Malacañang personnel.
Jhopee Avanceña, head of Malacañang's Internal House Affairs Office (IHAO), told Ranada in a text message on February 20, "I informed the PSG (Presidential Security Group) not to allow you to enter the Palace since I was instructed last night by the president.”
Avanceña further told on PTV News that the president also wanted Ressa to be banned to enter the palace.
Rappler since then, has made waves with the #HOLDTHELINE, garnering support from international news organizations, human rights group and different people online.