‘This is clear intimidation, harassment’, said Rappler’s Maria Ressa on BIR tax evasion case

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Rappler’s chief executive officer Maria Ressa slammed the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s for filing a tax evasion complaint against it and labeled the move as another attempt by the Duterte administration to silence critical reporting.

“This is clear intimidation and harassment. The government is wasting its energy and resources in an attempt to silence reporting that does not please the administration,” Ressa said in a statement on Thursday.

The BIR filed a tax evasion complaint against Rappler Holdings Corp., citing a tax deficiency of P133.84 million in relation to Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) it issued to foreign investors.

In a separate report on Rappler, Ressa called the complaint “ludicrous” and urged the BIR to “check its own records.”

Rappler said it has been paying taxes “accurately, promptly, and diligently” with no less than the BIR commending it as one of the top 500 corporate taxpayers of Revenue Region 7.
“Rappler has always been transparent and above board in all its dealings and transactions. And the records will bear us out,” the embattled online news site said.

Rappler said it was not surprised by this “latest government move to harass us” but was shocked by the speed with which the BIR filed a complaint before the Department of Justice after BIR agents delivered on Monday, March 5, a letter that was “remarkable for its lack of details.”

Rappler said it received on March 5 letters of authority signed by BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay authorizing Revenue Officer Ed Al Renzi Salles, Intelligence Officer Rosanna Berba, and Group Supervisor Editha Quilantang to examine Rappler’s “book of accounts and other accounting records for ALL INTERNAL REVENUE TAXES for the period from January 01, 2014 to December  31, 2015.”

The BIR then required Rappler to present a total of 47 documents and records for examination, the company said.

“No documents have been submitted as of today, which means no examination has been made whatsoever by the BIR. Without this examination, there is clearly no basis for a tax evasion complaint,” it said.
Under normal procedure, respondents are usually given 30 days to reply, Rappler said citing its lawyers.

Rappler has repeatedly earned the ire of Duterte and other Palace officials over what they view as irresponsible reporting.

On Janury 15, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked the certificates of incorporation of Rappler Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corp. for supposedly violating foreign ownership restrictions on mass media companies.

According to the SEC, Rappler violated the Constitution and laws when it allowed Omidyar Network, one of the Philippine Depositary Receipt (PDR) holders of Rappler, to exercise control over its corporate affairs as provided for in their internal agreement, in exchange for a fund infusion of $1 million.

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