Maria Ressa, Duterte’s most-vocal critic, arrested again

President Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Maria Ressa is using the freedom of the press as an excuse to attack the administration. (Reuters)
Updated 30 March 2019

Maria Ressa, Duterte’s most-vocal critic, arrested again

  • Her arrest, along with warrants issued to other Rappler execs, she said, is a bad signal to send to the rest of the world

MANILA: “This is not the Philippines I knew,” said Maria Ressa, CEO and executive editor of news website Rappler, after being released on bail hours after her arrest on Friday.

Ressa, a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested on arrival at Ninoy Aquino International Airport over an anti-dummy case filed on Thursday at the Pasig Regional Trial Court against her and several other Rappler executives. 

It is the second time Ressa has been arrested in just over one month. 

In February, Ressa spent one night in detention at the National Bureau of Investigation for a cyber libel case.

Speaking to reporters shortly after her release, having posted $1,700 bail, Ressa said: “I think one of the things we need to step up and admit is that the press in this country is under attack.”

Ressa, who was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2018, added that it was the seventh time she had posted bail and the second time she has been arrested.

“It’s obviously clear I am not a travel risk. I came home even after the new charges were laid out and the arrest warrant was issued,” she said, adding: “It’s a sad day for me.”

Her arrest, along with warrants issued to other Rappler execs, she said, is a bad signal to send to the rest of the world.

“The fact that the government continues to try to label us as criminals is itself criminal,” she declared. 

“Every action takes us further into a descent to tyranny. This is the weaponization of the law.”

The current charge against Ressa for violation of the country’s anti-dummy law —  designed to ensure that the Philippines’ foreign-equity limitations are enforced —  and the Securities Regulation Code is the seventh court case brought against Ressa, and the 11th against Rappler overall.

“All of these cases have been in the last year and a few months, and except for the cyber libel, (they) all stemmed from one event, which is Omidyar Network’s investment in the Philippines Depositary Receipts,” Ressa explained, adding that Rappler would fight each case in court.

In a statement, Rappler said a pattern of harassment against the organization started in January 2018, when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an order revoking its license, and has not stopped. The Court of Appeals has since ordered the SEC to reevaluate its decision.

“Now it casts a wider net to go beyond Maria Ressa and target other members of the Rappler Board,” the statement read.

Asked what she thought of her arrest at the airport, Ressa said: “It’s shocking that after a 14-hour flight — and I have committed no crime, I’m certainly not a flight risk — I’m (met) by police who will take me.”

The Philippines, she emphasized, is a democracy under a constitution, and has a bill of rights. 

Ressa said she hopes that the men and women of the judiciary will stand by the spirit of the constitution.


Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

Updated 19 October 2019

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

  • The chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons for missing the timetable
  • She said the results would be announced “as soon as possible”

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission conceded its failure to release initial presidential poll results set for Saturday and gave no new deadline for the vote which was marred by Taliban attacks and irregularities.
The presidential poll on Sept. 28 saw the lowest turnout of any elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s ousting.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons, particularly slowness in entering data on to the server, for missing the timetable.
“Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said in a brief announcement.
Without naming any camp, Nuristani also said: “A number of observers of election sides (camps) illegally are disrupting the process of elections.” She did not elaborate.
Nuristani said the results would be announced “as soon as possible,” while earlier in the day two IEC members said privately that the delay would take up to a week.
The delay is another blow for the vote that has been twice delayed due to the government’s mismanagement and meetings between the US and the Taliban, which eventually collapsed last month after President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
It further adds to political instability in Afghanistan, which has seen decades of conflict and foreign intervention and faced ethnic divides in recent years.
Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, have said that they expect to win.
The pair have been sharing power in Afghanistan as part of a US-brokered deal following the fraudulent polls of 2014.
The IEC has invalidated more than 500,000 votes because they were not conducted through biometric devices, bought for the vote from overseas to minimize the level of cheating in last month’s polls.
Officials of the commission said that nearly 1.8 million votes were considered clean and it was not clear what sort of impact the turnout would have on the legitimacy of the polls and the future government, whose main task will be to resume stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
They said that the slowness of data entry on to the server was one of the technical reasons for the delay in releasing initial poll results.
Yousuf Rashid, a senior official from an election watchdog group, described the delay as a “weakness of mismanagement,” while several lawmakers chided IEC for poor performance.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a former senior leader of an electoral body, told Arab News: “The delay showed IEC’s focus was on transparency” and that should be regarded as a sign that it took the issue of discarding fraudulent votes seriously.