Court of Tax Appeals allows Maria Ressa to travel to Oslo

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 07 2021 10:41 AM | Updated as of Dec 07 2021 03:35 PM

MANILA — The Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) has allowed Rappler Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Maria Ressa to travel to Oslo, Norway this month to receive the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize.

The CTA First Division, in a four-page resolution issued on Monday, granted Ressa’s urgent motion to travel outside the country, which she filed through her counsel from ACCRA Law on Nov. 12.

The decision comes days after the Court of Appeals (CA) also allowed Ressa’s travel request to receive the award on Dec. 10, noting that "she is not a flight risk." 

The CA is hearing her appeal to her cyber libel conviction while the CTA is hearing the tax evasion cases filed against her and Rappler Holdings Corporation over the sale of Philippine Depositary Receipts or PDRs.

Unlike in the CA case where the Office of the Solicitor General opposed Ressa’s travel motion, arguing that receiving the award is not necessary nor urgent and that Ressa is a flight risk, neither the Department of Justice nor the Bureau of Internal Revenue opposed the motion.

“Per this Court’s order dated April 3, 2019, it was ruled that in the event that no objection/comment is filed by plaintiff within three (3) working days from receipt of the motion via personal service, the Court shall grant accused’s motion to travel subject to similar conditions imposed in previous travel authorities,” the resolution signed by CTA associate justices Catherine Manahan, Jean Martie Bacorro-Villena and Maria Ivy Reyes-Fajardo said.

A fourth justice, Presiding Justice Roman del Rosario inhibited.

The CTA imposed conditions for Ressa's travel, including: 
- The travel shall only be to Oslo, Norway from December 8 to 13.
- Ressa is required to inform the court via electronic mail within 3 days from arrival in Manila about her return with a photocopy or scanned copy of her passport with a stamp of arrival from the Bureau of Immigration.
- Ressa must conform to travel guidelines and restrictions imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force.

Rappler also said a similar motion to travel has been granted by a Pasig court hearing another tax evasion case.

With the approval from three different courts, Ressa is now cleared to receive her award in Oslo on December 10.

Ressa shared the Peace Prize Prize with Russian investigative journalist Dmitry Muratov, in an endorsement of free speech under fire worldwide.

The prize is the first Nobel Peace Prize for journalists since the German Carl von Ossietzky won it in 1935 for revealing his country's secret post-war rearmament program.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided this year's award ceremony will be an in-person event taking place in Oslo City Hall.

Free on bail as she appeals against a six-year prison sentence handed down last year for a libel conviction, Ressa is facing five tax evasion charges and a corporate case with the regulator.

The Philippines saw its ranking in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index drop two notches to 138 out of 180 countries, and the Committee to Protect Journalists ranks the Philippines seventh in the world in its impunity index, which tracks deaths of media members whose killers go free.

The government denies hounding media and says any problems organizations face are legal, not political. It says it believes in free speech. 

— With Reuters

Watch more on iWantTFC