MANILA - The looming arrest of online news site Rappler's chief executive officer for alleged tax evasion is not political persecution, Malacañang said Monday.
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on Sunday told reporters an arrest warrant has been issued against her due to multiple tax evasion cases filed by the government.
"How can they be prosecuted? It's a question of tax evasion. You violate tax laws then you will prosecuted," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a press briefing.
"If you have a justifiable reason for so doing or have, will introduce evidence to show that it's not true, then you will be acquitted."
President Rodrigo Duterte, who has often been criticized by Rappler, "has too many obligations to fulfill" to dabble with the issue, he added.
"We have repeatedly said that we have never and we'll never interfere with the function of the judiciary as well as the other branch. If the judiciary finds probable cause for an information filed, then we have to respect the law on the matter," said Panelo.
He also said Ressa is entitled to the presumption of innocence and can avail of legal remedies, including posting bail for her temporary liberty.
The justice department indicted Rappler at a lower court last week for alleged violation of tax laws.
Ressa said the charges made her feel "vulnerable" but she will fight the 5 cases filed against her and Rappler.