HRW takes up cud­gels for Rap­pler

The Philippine Star - - NEWS OPINION - By RHODINA VIL­LANUEVA

Rights de­fend­ers yes­ter­day branded the move by the De­part­ment of Jus­tice to in­dict Rap­pler and its chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer and founder, Maria Ressa, for tax eva­sion and fail­ure to file tax re­turns as clearly a des­per­ate at­tempt by the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion to shut down one of the crit­i­cal voices in Philip­pine jour­nal­ism.

Brad Adams, Asia di­rec­tor of Hu­man Rights Watch, said Rap­pler has been in the crosshairs of the ad­min­is­tra­tion from day one be­cause of its un­re­lent­ing and ex­cep­tional cov­er­age of cor­rup­tion and malfea­sance in gov­ern­ment, par­tic­u­larly the drug war.

Adams said prior to the in­dict­ment, Rap­pler was sub­jected to a bar­rage of ha­rass­ment and in­tim­i­da­tion by the ad­min­is­tra­tion, start­ing with Pres­i­dent Duterte him­self.

“This in­cludes threats on so­cial me­dia and block­ing the news web­site’s re­porter from cov­er­ing the pres­i­den­tial palace. This case against Rap­pler is a clear as­sault on press free­dom in the Philip­pines and part of the Duterte gov­ern­ment’s at­tempt to evade scrutiny and ac­count­abil­ity,” he added.

Ear­lier, the De­part­ment of Jus­tice in­dicted Rap­pler Hold­ings Corp. (RHC) for tax eva­sion and fail­ure to file tax re­turns.

As­sis­tant State Pros­e­cu­tor Zen­mar Macha­con-Ca­parros up­held a com­plaint filed by the Bu­reau of In­ter­nal Rev­enue against RHC and Ressa for “will­ful at­tempt to evade or de­feat tax and will­ful fail­ure to sup­ply cor­rect and ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion un­der Sec­tions 254 and 255, rep­sec­tively of the tax code.”

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