Maria Ressa, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was cleared of a last tax evasion accusation on Tuesday, but she still has to face two more judicial proceedings that, in her opinion, former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte exploited to stifle her critical reporting.
Ressa and her online news outlet Rappler were been charged with five counts of tax evasion, but in January, a court cleared her of four of the counts. She was exonerated on Tuesday after a different court heard the fifth charge.
Outside the courthouse, she told reporters, “Facts win, truth wins, justice wins.”
Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov received the 2021 Nobel Prize for their work defending free speech by defending the existence of their news organizations and resisting attempts by the government to shut them down.
She claimed the accusations were politically driven since Rappler opposed Duterte’s ruthless assault on illegal narcotics, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of primarily low-level drug suspects. The crackdown is being looked into by the International Criminal Court as a potential crime against humanity.
Rappler also questioned Duterte’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, which included protracted lockdowns that worsened poverty, triggered one of the worst recessions in the nation, and spurred claims of corruption in government medical procurement.
Ressa said that there seemed to be a “lifting of fear” under the leadership of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the dictator who was toppled in the army-backed “people power” rebellion in the Philippines in 1986.
Rappler is contesting a Securities and Exchange Commission closure order, while Ressa is still appealing a conviction for internet libel to the Supreme Court.
You must have trust, Ressa admonished. “The acquittal now increases our will to continue with the legal system, to submit ourselves to the court regardless of the political intimidation and attacks on press freedom. We expect to see the remaining charges dropped because it demonstrates how effectively the legal system operates.