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CTA denies Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s move to dismiss P70.2-M tax case

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa has lost her move to dismiss a P70.2-million tax evasion case at the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) for supposedly declaring incorrect tax returns, days before the National Bureau of Investigation arrested her in a separate criminal case.

The CTA First Division denied Ressa’s urgent motion to quash information and suspend the proceedings against her. The February 7 resolution was received by Ressa’s lawyers on Tuesday, February 12—a day before agents of the National Bureau of Investigation arrested Ressa over a cyber libel rap. The resolution was released to the media on Friday.

The NBI arrested Ressa on Wednesday, February 13, for cyber libel related to an article published on her website in May 2012, months before the anti-cybercrime law was enacted. She posted a P100,000 bail on February 14.

Ressa argued the tax court has no jurisdiction over her and Rappler Holdings because of a pending motion for reconsideration on indictments filed by the Department of Justice.

An administrative case is also pending against her before the Pasig City Regional Trial Court, which the veteran journalist cited as separate grounds for the CTA not to hear her case, she added.

Ressa also argued she did not violate Sections 254 and 255 of the National Internal Revenue Code by supposedly failing to report total quarterly sales receipts from the issuance and sale of Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) in the second quarter of 2015.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue opposed Ressa’s motion, claiming the DOJ could proceed with indictment despite her unresolved appeal and considering she was accorded every opportunity to prove otherwise the charges against her.

On the other hand, the tax court belittled Ressa’s argument in her pending motion for reconsideration as moot since it was already denied on Nov. 29, 2018.

In finding the charges sufficient for Ressa to stand trial, the CTA said her pending administrative case at the Pasig RTC bears no weight in the tax proceedings against her.

“As to the pendency of the administrative case against the accused instituted by the BIR, this should not be a bar to the institution of the criminal proceedings before this court as it is well-settled that an assessment is not necessary before a criminal charge for tax evasion may be instituted,” it said.

Presiding Justice Roman del Rosario penned the CTA resolution. Associate Justices Esperanza Fabon-Victorino and Catherine Manahan concurred.

The CTA set the preliminary case conference on March 6, 2019 and the pre-trial scheduled on March 13.

On Dec.  11, 2018, Ressa posted a P204,000 bail covering four tax charges. —VDS, GMA News