Rappler CEO nabbed, freed on bail

March 29, 2019
Maria Ressa

RAPPLER’S Maria Ressa was arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) shortly upon her arrival from San Francisco, USA yesterday morning.

Ressa, CEO of the popular online news outfit, posted a P90,000 bail bond and was immediately ordered released by the Pasig City regional trial court.

She was arrested on the strength of an arrest warrant issued by Judge Acerey Pacheco of the Pasig RTC Branch 265 for violation of the Anti-Dummy Law and Securities Regulation Code.

Just recently, the Pasig City Prosecutor’s Office filed charges against Ressa and several others after probable cause was established against them during preliminary investigation.

Apart from Ressa, likewise indicted before the Pasig City regional trial court were managing editor Glenda M. Gloria, and five other members of Rappler’s 2016 board, namely Manuel Ayala, James Bitanga, Nico Jose Nolledo, James Velasquez, and Felicia Atienza.

Government prosecutors found that Rappler violated the Anti-Dummy Law for issuing Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) to foreign investor Omidyar Network.

The case stemmed from the January 2018 order of the Securities and Exchange Commission revoking the license of Rappler for violating the constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of media.

Arrest defended

It’s just part of our job.

This was the Philippine National Police leadership’s statement on the arrest of Rappler’s Maria Ressa yesterday.

PNP spokesman Colonel Bernard M. Banac maintained there was “no bias” in Ressa’s arrest since police merely enforces legitimate orders from the court.

“There is no bias. Whenever we are tasked by the court to serve the warrant of arrest, then we do so without reservation.  For some other cases it takes time, like if you’re still looking for a person, but in the case of Ms. Ressa, we confirmed that she arrived. She’s there at the airport, then why delay?” said Banac.

Eastern Police District director Brigadier General Christopher E. Tambungan said that a group of policewomen under the supervision of Pasig City Police Station commander Col. Rizalino Gapas served the warrant for Ressa’s arrest for violation of the Anti-Dummy Law.

“This is a travesty of justice. I have done nothing wrong. I am not a criminal. I am treated like a criminal,” the Rappler chief told a television interview.

However, both Banac and Tambungan said the arrest is legitimate since it is covered with a warrant. Both also said that Ressa’s comments about her arrest have no bearing on her case.

Palace comment

Malacañang yesterday defended the arrest of Ressa for her alleged violation of the Anti-Dummy Law, saying the court had found basis for her arrest.

“All warrants of arrest issued by competent courts are to be served in the way it was served to her this morning. And warrants of arrest are not issued unless the courts, judges determine there is a probable cause which means due process has been observed,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in his regular briefing.

Ressa had described her arrest as “harassment” and “travesty of justice” but Panelo said the veteran journalist only wanted to be “treated differently.”

“She’s charged of a crime and there is a determination of probable cause hence a warrant of arrest has been issued. So she should concentrate on defending herself in court. She cannot be always using the freedom of the press as an excuse to attack the administration,” he said.

With Alfred Dalizon, Willy M. Balasa, EMontano