Palace to UN rapporteur: Criminal cases vs Rappler, Ressa not censorship

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2018 10:03 PM

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo has said that cases against Maria Ressa and Rappler do not "constitute censorship." Mark Demayo and George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA—Malacañang on Saturday rebuked a United Nations special rapporteur who urged the government to drop criminal cases against journalist Maria Ressa and media entity Rappler.

In a statement, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo told David Kaye, UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, that the tax evasion cases against Ressa and Rappler do not "constitute censorship."

"For Mr. Kaye's enlightenment, tax evasion is a serious offense not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well. The case against the media outfit has absolutely nothing to do with the freedom of expression," he said.

"Being a media entity and a journalist cannot shield them from criminal prosecution when they violate the law. A court of competent jurisdiction has found probable cause against them; hence, they have been formally charged."

Panelo maintained that freedom of expression is "very much respected in our jurisdiction."

"The fact that Rappler and its reporters continue to publish articles of dissent against this administration is an eloquent testimonial," he said.

"Should there be cases of censorship, people are always free to seek redress from the courts. We note that there are no reports of such cases."

Panelo said UN representatives should be "more circumspect instead of politicizing a crime and ignoring its gravity and assaulting the sovereignty of our country."

The government has many times clashed with other UN special rapporteurs such as Agnes Callamard, Dainius Pūras over the country's drug war, and special rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers Diego García-Sayán following Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s ouster.