THE Court of Appeals (CA) yesterday junked the petition to travel to the United States filed by Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa after she failed to convince the court that she was not a flight risk.
“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,” the CA Special 14th Division chaired by Associate Justice Danton Bueser said in its ruling.
Aside from her conviction by the Manila regional trial court for cyber libel, Ressa is also facing tax evasion charges before the Pasig city regional trial court and the Court of Tax Appeals.
She and her co-accused in the cyber libel case, former Rappler staff writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. are currently out on bail.
The appellate court ruled that while the right to travel is a constitutional right, there are restrictions under the law such as when a person is indicted on criminal offenses or when he or she is released on bail.
“Thus, while the Constitution guarantees the freedom of movement, it also recognizes that such liberty is not an absolute right. For instance, a person facing a criminal indictment and provisionally released on bail does not have an unrestricted right to travel because of the necessity of safeguarding the system of justice,” it stated.
Likewise, the appellate court said Ressa does not need to be physically present to attend her speaking engagements and panel discussions and to receive her awards because she could participate in the activities online.
“There are other ways for her to participate in the theatrical release and panel discussions of the documentary ‘A Thousand Cuts.’ Indeed, video conferencing and other technological applications may allow her to fulfill her duties as a media practitioner,” the court said.
The appellate court noted that Ressa was able to attend to speaking engagements and participate in other international forums after her conviction on cyber libel through via virtual participation.
In her petition, Ressa told the CA she wanted to travel to the US from August 1 to 31 for a series of engagements and to receive awards.
She said she was invited by the producer of Frontline to travel to Boston, Massachusetts to support the release of the documentary “A Thousand Cuts,” and that on August 23 she will be conferred the 2020 International Press Freedom Award by the National Press Club of the US in Washington D.C.
From August 25 to September 18, she said she would also attend several other meetings and engagements in the US.
Ressa had promised to return to September 18 from Washington D.C..