MANILA (2nd UPDATE) – A Pasig City court has suspended proceedings in a criminal case against Rappler, its CEO Maria Ressa, and several other officers and board members and remanded it to prosecutors for preliminary investigation.
This, after Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 159 found that prosecutors hastily filed a criminal charge for violation of the Securities Regulation Code (SRC) against Rappler, Ressa, and Rappler board members Glenda Gloria, Manuel Ayala, Nico Jose Nolledo, Felicia Atienza, James Velasquez and James Bitanga.
Ressa and Gloria claimed the Pasig City Prosecutor’s Office issued a resolution indicting them beyond office hours on March 25, and proceeded to file the information in court even if Gloria had signified her intention to file a motion for reconsideration.
The court found the respondents’ rights to due process were violated as they were not given the right to a full preliminary investigation.
“Verily, the undue haste in the transmittal of the records of the case to the Court for the filing of Information against the accused violates the accused’s right to due process, guaranteed under the Constitution. When the accused were deprived of this right, there is a denial of the right to a full preliminary investigation preparatory to the filing of the Information,” it said.
In the same order, Judge Elma Rafallo-Lingan also ordered the reduction of Ressa’s and Gloria’s bail bond from P126,000 each to P63,000 and their travel bond from P100,000 to P50,000 each.
She also consolidated the SRC case with another criminal case for violation of the Anti-Dummy law, which prohibits foreigners from intervening in the management, operation, administration, or control of any nationalized activity.
Proceedings in the anti-dummy case, where the prosecution has started presenting evidence, has also been suspended.
The case stemmed from Rappler Holding Corp’s allegedly fraudulent issuance of 7.2 million Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) to foreign-owned Omidyar Network Fund LLC (Omidyar). Media companies are required to be 100% Filipino-owned.
This is the same transaction which led the Securities and Exchange Commission to revoke Rappler’s license in January 2018.
Rappler welcomed the court's order.
"The court’s order keeps alive our hope in our judicial system. All that we need for our cases are judges and justices who have the courage to decide them fairly. We are fervently hoping that the cases will be decided based solely on their merits so that truth and justice will prevail in the end," said Rappler's counsel Francis Lim.
Rappler insists a PDR is not a means to own or control shares in the Philippines. Omidyar has also donated its PDRs to Rappler officers.