The Court of Appeals on Friday granted the plea of Rappler Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa for permission to travel to Oslo, Norway from December 8 to 13 to personally receive her Nobel Peace Prize for 2021.
The appellate court made the ruling after it denied the opposition of the Office of the Solicitor General, which claimed that Ressa is a “flight risk.”
“Considering that Ressa has proved that her intended travel is necessary and urgent, and she is not a flight risk, there is no reason to deny the Urgent Motion to Travel Abroad,” the CA’s Special Seventh Division said, in a resolution penned by Associate Justice Geraldine Fiel Macaraig.
Associate Justices Ruben Reynaldo G. Roxas and Raymond Reynold R. Lauigan of the CA’s special seventh division concurred with the ruling.
The CA is reviewing the conviction of Ressa in 2020 on cybercrime. With the pendency of the review, Ressa had to ask the CA permission to travel abroad.
The appellate court granted Ressa’s travel period from December 8 to 13, 2021, and only for the purpose of attending the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo, Norway, and participating in the events specifically mentioned in the attached confirmation and invitation letter.
“Ressa should return to the Philippines from Boston, USA, on Dec. 2, 2021, and inform this Court within 24 hours from such return. (Ressa had earlier been allowed to travel to the US.),” the CA said.
“Subject to her compliance with the second condition above-mentioned, the previous cash bond in the amount of P500,000 under Official Receipt No.10074925 shall be applied as travel bond for purposes of her travel to Oslo, Norway on Dec. 8, 2021 until Dec. 13, 2021. Ressa shall advise this Court in writing of her return to the country within 24 hours from arrival on Dec. 13, 2021,” the appellate court added.
The other Nobel Peace laureate is Russian journalist Dimitry Muratov.
Replying to OSG’s opposition to her travel to Norway, Ressa’s lawyers said: “Ressa has sufficiently demonstrated the necessity and urgency of the travel sought, that she is not a flight risk, and that the Court’s Oct. 18, 2021 Resolution (while not automatically binding in this application) provides a basis for this Court to grant her application.”
It disagreed with OSG’s allegation that she issued various pronouncements criticizing her conviction that make her a flight risk.
“This is not only without basis but also fundamentally dangerous,” the reply said, even as it underscored that Ressa has the right to free speech and expression under Article III of the 1987 Constitution.
It stressed that receiving a Nobel Peace Prize is a one-in-a-lifetime experience.
“The importance of the awarding ceremony and Ms. Ressa’s presence there cannot be understated. It is necessary and urgent travel for Ms. Ressa herself: plainly, this is a unique and very unusual situation, and there would be very grave prejudice to her were she to miss this opportunity.”
“Put simply, she will not be awarded a second Nobel Peace Prize; this is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Her non-presence in Oslo on Dec. 10, 2021 would undoubtedly cause her irreparable damage and prejudice,”
Ressa’s lawyer Theodore Te argued. “The reply reiterated that Ressa’s travel to Noway would be in the interest of the Philippines’ international standing. However, her absence at the event “would be both conspicuous and difficult to explain,” it said.
The lawyer for Ressa, who faces multiple court cases, said Friday he was "confident" the journalist would be allowed to travel to Oslo to collect the award in person.
The former CNN correspondent, who is on bail pending an appeal against a conviction last year in a cyber libel case, applied to three courts for permission to travel to Norway for the December 10 ceremony.
Ressa has already received permission from a regional trial court hearing another case, according to Francis Lim, one of her lawyers.
She is still waiting for the Court of Tax Appeals to rule on her travel application, but Lim said: "We are confident that it will be granted."
Ressa has been a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his government's policies, including a drug war that has killed thousands.
Since Duterte was swept to power in 2016, Ressa and Rappler have endured what media advocates say is a grinding series of criminal charges, investigations, and online attacks.
She faces a total of seven court cases, including the appeal against a conviction in the cyber libel case, for which she faces up to six years in prison.
Ressa, who is also a US citizen, returned to the Philippines on Thursday after a court-approved trip to the United States. With AFP