From International Fact-Checking Network <[email protected]>
Subject Rappler has been cleared of tax evasion charges
Date January 19, 2023 3:56 PM
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‘Facts win, truth wins, justice wins,’ said Maria Ressa, Rappler’s CEO Email not displaying correctly?
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Rappler has been cleared of tax evasion charges
Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, one of the winners of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize and Rappler CEO, speaks to the media after a court decision at the Court of Tax Appeals in Quezon City, Philippines Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/ Basilio Sepe)

Rappler, a leading news and fact-checking organization in the Philippines, just won a consolidated tax evasion lawsuit that has been ongoing for four years. Though there are still charges pending, this is a big win for Rappler, which has been hampered by the Philippine government’s enduring campaign ([link removed]) against critical press coverage since 2018.

“Today, we celebrate the triumph of facts over politics,” Rappler wrote in a statement ([link removed]) .

The Philippine Court of Tax Appeals acquitted Rappler on four charges of tax evasion that had been filed by the administration of former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We thank the court for this just decision and for recognizing that the fraudulent, false and flimsy charges made by the Bureau of Internal Revenue do not have any basis in fact,” Rappler said in a statement. “An adverse decision would have had far-reaching repercussions on both the press and the capital markets.”

When asked whether this decision could be a signal that the current administration might be more lenient with Rappler than Duterte’s, a spokesperson for Rappler said “we’ll watch and see.”

Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler and Nobel laureate, was also acquitted of the charges. While Ressa is still facing ([link removed]) some legal challenges, prior to this ruling, Ressa had been looking at over 100 years of imprisonment. A cyber-libel case is still in the books, with several related legal challenges.

Rappler was accused of violating the constitution when it issued Philippine Depositary Receipts to the Omidyar Network. Since ownership of media organizations in the Philippines is limited to Filipinos or Philippine organizations, the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (at the time under President Duterte) opened a case against Rappler, accusing it of being foreign-owned and therefore unconstitutional.

However, PDRs are a certificate of investment that can be legally owned by non-Filipinos. And, unlike stocks, they don’t confer direct ownership and are commonly used by media groups around the world.

On Jan. 18, the Philippine Court of Tax Appeals unanimously voted that Rappler’s issuance of PDRs to the Omidyar Network was non-taxable, the crux of the tax-evasion case.

“There is nothing in the wordings of the PDR instruments and the PDR subscription agreements that would show the foreign entities North Base Media and Omidyar Network will become owners of the shares of stock of Rappler,” the court wrote.

Ressa’s lawyer, Francis Lim, said if PDRs were declared taxable income in the Philippines, “every business seeking to raise capital would be affected.”

“Today, facts win, truth wins, justice wins,” Ressa said. “Perhaps, to those who troll Rappler and those who believe the lies against Rappler, we have already proven that Rappler is not a tax evader.”
“Four down. We look forward to the quick resolution of the rest of the charges against Rappler,” said Ellen Tordesillas, co-founder of VERA Files, a Philippine investigative and fact-checking outlet. “Nobody deserves the harassment Rappler went through under Duterte.”

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Quick hits
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From the news:
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From/for the community:
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• The IFCN has awarded $450,000 in grant support to organizations working to lessen the impact of false and misleading information on WhatsApp. In partnership with Meta, the Spread the Facts Grant Program ([link removed]) gives verified fact-checking organizations resources to identify, flag and reduce the spread of misinformation that threatens more than 100 billion messages each day. The grant supports eleven projects from eight countries: India, Spain, Nigeria, Georgia, Bolivia, Italy, Indonesia and Jordan. Read more about the announcement here ([link removed]) .
• IFCN job announcements: Program Officer, ([link removed]) Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist ([link removed])

Thanks for reading. If you are a fact-checker and you’d like your work/projects/achievements highlighted in the next edition, send us an email at [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) by next Tuesday. Corrections? Tips? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at [email protected] (mailto:[email protected])
Seth Smalley
Reporter, IFCN
[email protected] (mailto:[email protected])

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