Court affirms decision acquitting Maria Ressa, Rappler of tax evasion

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 31) — The Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) affirmed an earlier decision to clear Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa and her media company Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC) of tax evasion.

The CTA First Division, in a May 18 resolution released to the media only on Wednesday, said it finds no compelling reason to reverse or modify its Jan. 18 ruling.

It denied for “lack of merit” the motion for reconsideration filed by the prosecution, which said the court “misapprehended the facts of the case when it acquitted the accused.”

The prosecution maintained that Ressa and RHC should be held civilly liable and be required to pay the alleged deficiency income tax and value-added tax for 2015.

In the 11-page resolution, the CTA cited the finality-of-acquittal doctrine, which states that a judgment of acquittal can no longer be reconsidered since it violates the constitutional provision against double jeopardy.

It also pointed out that it exhaustively discussed and resolved the issues raised by the prosecution, including on Ressa and Rappler’s supposed civil liability.

In its January decision, the court said the unpaid tax obligation charges have not been factually and legally proven.

“Not having been found liable for said deficiency taxes, no civil liability may be imposed upon the accused," read the more recent verdict penned by Associate Justice Catherine Manahan. "To reiterate, the accused was found not to be guilty of the acts and omissions charged."

The court also said it will “no longer belabor the justifications and discussions made in disposing of said issues as these will merely repeat the disquisitions and rulings.”

Ressa and Rappler's acquittal in January came over four years after the Bureau of Internal Revenue filed the complaints against them, and after the Department of Justice filed the cases in court in 2018 during the Duterte administration.