MALACANANG has slammed the call of a United Nations (UN) rapporteur for the government to drop the tax evasion charges against Rappler, stressing that it is “assaulting the sovereignty of our country.”
“We expect the UN representative to be more circumspect instead of politicizing a crime and ignoring its gravity and assaulting the sovereignty of our country,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in his statement to Palace reporters.
He reacted to David Kaye who is the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression.
The Palace official noted that the UN representative made the call “without the benefit of factual information.”
Panelo argued that the tax evasion case against the online news media outfit and its chief executive officer, Maria Ressa, “has absolutely nothing to do with the freedom of expression.”
“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,” he added.
Panelo also told Kaye that “tax evasion is a serious offense not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well.”
“A court of competent jurisdiction has found probable cause against them; hence, they have been formally charged,” he added.
The Palace official further stressed that the “right to express oneself is very much respected” under the current administration, pointing out that “the fact that Rappler and its reporters continue to publish articles of dissent against this Administration is an eloquent testimonial”.
“The fact that detractors and critics of the President continue to air their protests in various media platforms against our policies is another irrefutable proof. 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,” he added.