Philippine leader jokes he used marijuana at summit meeting

Drug-busting Duterte quips smoking pot ‘keeps him awake

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.

An award-winning Philippine journalist who along with the online news service she heads has been sued for tax evasion has declared her innocence and was freed on bail Monday after turning herself in for arrest.

"This is a clear case of harassment", said Ressa, who confirmed there was an arrest warrant released on the basis of what she described as "politically-motivated charges".

She faces a maximum of 10 years in jail under Philippine tax law.

But Ressa and Rappler's lawyers have pointed out that the charges hinge on the news agency being classified as a "dealer in securities".

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"We need to hold government to account, and part of the reason I'm here is precisely that", Ressa said outside a Manila court. She evaded arrest after posting before a Pasig City regional trial court Monday. As we said, we can hardly cope with this man, he's always working.

"Arresting Maria (Ressa) will send a clear signal that the country's democracy is fast receding under a feckless administration that can not abide criticisms and free expression, and will go to ridiculous lengths to muzzle all those it does not agree with", the NUJP said. However, he later told reporters he was joking. When Ressa returned to the Philippines Sunday night, she told a crowd of TV news cameras at the airport that she would keep fighting.

The warrant is said to be the latest in what has been seen as a direct attack by Mr. Duterte's regime on news organizations that are critical of his government, in particular the war on drugs. Rights groups have denounced the killings as extrajudicial executions and say the crackdown is unfairly directed at the poor rather than the kingpins in the illicit trade.

"This is not surprising behavior by the administration but is nonetheless abominable", he said in a statement. "You violate the laws on tax evasion and you will be prosecuted", Panelo, also the chief presidential legal counsel, argued.

"We have repeatedly said that we never and will never interfere with the function of the judiciary as well as the other branch. If the Judiciary finds probable cause for an information filed, and we have to respect the law on the matter", Panelo said.

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