RAPPLER CEO and executive editor Maria A. Ressa on Wednesday pleaded not guilty in connection with four tax-evasion charges at the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA).
Ms. Ressa was arraigned over charges against her and Rappler Holdings Corporation of three counts of violation of Section 255 of the Tax Code or “willful failure to supply correct and accurate information in tax returns.” This is in connection with their alleged underdeclared income tax return in 2015 amounting to P162 million and value-added tax liability for the third and fourth quarters of the same year worth P8 million each, exclusive of charges and interests.
Eric R. Recalde, Ms. Ressa’s counsel, told reporters after the arraignment that they are “confident” they will get a “fair trial.”
For her part, Ms. Ressa said, “The presiding judge was very professional on all sides, so happy with this in that sense…I’m hoping for justice.”
“We did nothing wrong and I’m very proud of Rappler with what we have accomplished so I hope, given today , if everything goes through, we now have court dates all the way through, it’s under expedited court . So I hope it’s resolved sooner rather than later.”
Ms. Ressa maintained these cases against her and Rappler are “politically motivated.”
“(W)e will fight every single one and hope for the integrity of the men and women who will handle these cases and that they go as well as today,” she said.
A fifth count on tax-related charges was filed before the Pasig City regional trial court (RTC) over Rappler’s alleged VAT liability for the second quarter of 2015 worth P294,258.58.
Ms. Ressa was arrested on Feb. 13 for cyber-libel but posted bail the next day. She was arrested a second time and again posted bail on March 29 for allegedly violating the Anti-Dummy Law, in connection with Philippine Depositary Receipts worth $1.5 million from Omidyar Network, since donated to Rappler staff. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas