Maria Ressa, the CEO of Philippine news site Rappler presented herself to court with a bail application, that was approved, guaranteeing her freedom until her next court appearance scheduled for December 7.
In a statement on Monday, Ressa said that the charges were “a clear case of harassment.”
“I surrendered to the court this morning, went though the process of what a criminal would go through, and filed bail without surrendering my right to question the Pasig court’s jurisdiction over this tax case,” she said.
Ressa’s lawyer Francis Lim confirmed to CNN that she posted Php60,000 (about $1,100) bail and was free to leave the court. He added that an arraignment was set for Friday.
“We will file a motion to quash the indictment and defer the arraignment,” Lim said.
Ressa, an award-winning journalist who previously served as a CNN bureau chief in Manila, has defended Rappler’s ownership structure as “100% Filipino,” and maintained the charges against her company are politically motivated.
“I’ve long run out of synonyms for the word ‘ridiculous.’ The basis of this case is that Rappler is classified as a dealer in securities. I am definitely not a stockbroker,” Ressa told CNN after news of the charges broke.
Thorn in Duterte’s side
Ressa arrived back in Manila Sunday night amid fears that she could be subject to immediate arrest, but was able to leave the airport with the rest of the Rappler team.
Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher for Human Rights Watch said Monday that “the charges filed against Rappler and its editor and founder, Maria Ressa, are politically motivated and part of the Duterte administration’s campaign to harass, threaten and intimidate critics.”
“This is not surprising behavior by the administration but is nonetheless abominable,” he said in a statement.
In a press conference Monday, Philippine presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo denied that the charges against Ressa and Rappler were politically motivated.
Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, earlier said the case sent “a chilling message to journalists and human rights activists (in the Philippines) that they will be targeted for exposing his murderous campaign.”
In January, the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) temporarily revoked Rappler’s registration on the basis that it had violated the country’s constitution over foreign ownership rules.
Ressa was overseas when the charges against Rappler were first announced, but she vowed to return to the Philippines and fight them, even if that meant doing so from a prison cell.
“Our democracy is in transition … the mission of journalism has never been needed as much as it is now, and we’ll continue doing these stories.”
CNN’s Joshua Berlinger and Euan McKirdy contributed reporting.