“Today we celebrate the triumph of facts over politics,” the online news magazine Rappler wrote in a statement about the recent acquittal of charges of alleged tax evasion against Maria Ressa and her company Rappler Holdings Corporation (HRC). The acquittal on September 12, 2023, ended four years and ten months that Ressa had spent in court hearings.
Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch Philippines said the acquittal of Ressa and Rappler was “long overdue” and called on President Ferdinand Marcos to ensure an end to legal harassment against journalists. Ressa also said that the acquittal fits President Marcos’ policy line: “Because the tax evasion charges threatened the way of doing business in the Philippines, and this is a cornerstone of the Marcos administration, to bring the economy back up, and to bring international investors in.”
On the first anniversary of the death of radio journalist Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa, murdered on October 3, 2022, media groups again called for justice for his death. Lapid was shot dead on his way home in Las Piñas City. Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros also mentioned Lapid’s murder, which remains unsolved, in a Senate session on October 3, 2023. She also referred to the importance of decriminalizing libel and called for support for her proposed legislation already tabled in the Senate in this regard.
Photo © Raffy Lerma