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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's critic surrenders, freed

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
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The journalist who leads a news site that has battled Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte turned herself in on Monday to face what she termed a...

Manila: The journalist who leads a news site that has battled Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte turned herself in on Monday to face what she termed a “manufactured” tax fraud case that carries the threat of a decade behind bars.

A day after Rappler CEO Maria Ressa flew home to the Philippines under the threat of an arrest warrant, she surrendered at a Manila court and was allowed to remain free after paying a cash bail.

Rappler has been hit by a string of government efforts to shut it down since the site took a critical tone on Duterte, in particular his internationally condemned drug war that has killed thousands.

Ressa now faces the prospect of a trial in an overburdened court system that is notoriously susceptible to influence from powerful elites.

“They (the charges) are politically motivated and... they are manufactured,” she told journalists outside court. “Rappler pays the right taxes.”If found guilty of the charge that Rappler provided false information to tax authorities, she risks up to 10 years behind bars. She posted a bail equivalent of $1,100.Campaigners condemned the charge, which is one of several tax fraud cases the government filed against Rappler and Ressa last week while she was out of the country to attend a series of prominent journalism events.

The charges are “part of the Duterte administration's campaign to harass, threaten and intimidate critics,” said Human Rights Watch Philippines researcher Carlos Conde.

“The attacks on Rappler are consistent with the way the Duterte administration has treated other 'drug war' critics,” he said.

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