CA junks Maria Ressa’s bid for US travel

(Eagle News) — The Court of Appeals has denied Maria Ressa’s motion she be allowed to travel to the United States for a series of activities including the launch of a documentary.

In denying the very urgent motion for permission to travel abroad by Ressa, who is out on bail pending her appeal of her cyber libel conviction by the Manila Regional Trial Court, the CA’s special fourteenth division noted that she failed to show the urgency of her intended trip from Aug. 23 to September 19, as argued by the Office of the Solicitor General.

“Other than her brief narration, she has not presented further evidence to warrant her physical presence at the theatrical release and in the panel discussions of the Documentary ‘A Thousand Cuts,'” the division said.

The division also gave weight to the OSG’s argument the Rappler executive editor can make use of video conferencing and other technological devices to participate in the event without leaving the Philippines, noting that  these were the same modes she herself used to  accommodate interviews and virtually attend international conferences even after her conviction.

The division added there was also “no sufficient evidence to justify” Ressa’s intention to personally receive the 2020 International Press Freedom Award  from the National Press Club on Aug. 24 in Washington D.C.

As for Ressa’s argument she had been allowed by the RTC to leave the country, the division said her subsequent conviction “changes her situation.”

The division said the Supreme Court, in Marcos vs the Honorable Sandiganbayan and the People of the Philippines, already held that conviction, although not yet final, “warrants the exercise of greater caution in allowing a person admitted to bail from leaving the Philippines.”

“In view of Ressa’s failure to prove that her travel to the United States of America is necessary and urgent, there is no basis to grant her motion..Premises considered, (Ressa’s) very urgent motion for permission to travel abroad is denied,” the division said.

The resolution was signed by Associate Justice Geraldine Fiel-Macaraig.

Associate Justices Danton Bueser and Carlito Calpatura concurred.

Ressa’s conviction for cyber libel in June stems from a Rappler story which businessman Wilfredo Keng, who was mentioned in the article, had slammed as libelous.

Also convicted by Manila RTC Branch 46 Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa was Rappler’s former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr.

Santos is also out on bail pending appeal of his conviction.

Both Ressa’s and Santos’ bail are under the same cash bond they filed before the RTC.