Rappler CEO Maria Ressa posts bail for anti-dummy law case

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 29) — Rappler CEO and journalist Maria Ressa was released on Friday after posting bail over charges of violating the anti-dummy law.

The arrest warrant issued by the Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 265 was served the moment Ressa arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Friday morning from San Francisco, U.S.A.

Ressa was brought to the Pasig City Police headquarters where she underwent booking procedure. She then headed to the Pasig RTC to post a ₱90,000 bail.

She is facing a total of 11 complaints and cases, saying this is her seventh time to post bail. She called the mounting cases in a span of one year three months as "forum shopping" in the part of the government. Other former and incumbent executives of Rappler have also posted bail for the same criminal case.

"Sad day for me. Apparently the Philippine government isn't satisfied with arresting just me... They're not criminals, neither am I. The fact that the government tries to label us as criminals is itself criminal. This is the weaponization of the law," she said in a chance interview after posting bail.

She said this is proof of the intimidation of the media.

"This shows you how hard it is to be a journalist today," she told CNN Philippines.

Malacañang said that instead of complaining, Ressa should focus her energy on defending herself in the court - insisting the cases filed against the Rappler CEO has nothing to do with press freedom.

"She's charged with a crime and there is a determination of probable cause hence, a warrant of arrest is issued... How can it be a violation of the bill of rights? When she was charged, there was a preliminary investigation on that and then probable cause was determined," he said in a media briefing.

Prosecutor Randy Esteban said Rappler's executives were being charged for allowing a foreign company to intervene in the management and operation of Rappler Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corp. in violation of the Anti-Dummy Law. Only Filipino citizens can own media entities in the country.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier revoked Rappler's certificate of incorporation, or its license to do business. The SEC said Rappler violated constitutional limitations on ownership and control of mass media entities because of funds coming from its foreign investor Omidyar Network.

Owned by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, the Omidyar Network has since donated its $1.5-million (around ₱78 million) investment to Rappler's 14 Filipino managers in a bid to resolve foreign ownership issues.

Rappler has maintained that its foreign investors have no control over the media outfit's operations. It has decried the legal challenges as harassment and a clampdown on the free press.

Francis Lim, Ressa's lawyer, said the move of the Duterte administration to control the press is unsurprising. But he said they will continue to hold the line.

"Let it be crystal clear that these acts of harassment will not deter our clients from doing their duty as journalists. We believe in the rule of law and it is our fervent hope that we will prevail in the end," he said.

Ressa is out on a ₱100,000 bail after being arrested for a cyber libel case involving a story published on its online news platform May 2012, months before the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was passed. The news agency's chief earlier posted bail for her tax evasion charges.

This is a developing story.