On October 24, 2023, lawmaker France Castro sued former President Rodrigo Duterte after the latter allegedly threatened to kill her. The threat was issued in a television program where Duterte shared his advice to his daughter, current Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte, for the national budget deliberations at the House of Representatives. Sara Duterte proposed an allocation of Php 650 million as confidential and intelligence funds for the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education, although the proposal was eventually denied. Castro was one of the lawmakers who staunchly opposed the proposed allocation.
Meanwhile, two environmental activists are facing perjury charges after revealing their abduction by military personnel during a press conference hosted by the government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict on September 19, 2023. Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano were supposed to explain their “voluntary surrender” during the press conference. However, Castro and Tamano publicly denied having surrendered and instead claimed that they were forcibly taken by the army and coerced to sign affidavits of surrender. The two activists had been missing for more than two weeks by the time of the press conference. A petition for the issuance of the protective writs in favor of Castro and Tamano is now pending before the Supreme Court.
In September 2023, journalist Maria Ressa and news organization Rappler were acquitted of tax evasion. Ressa and Rappler were charged with tax evasion for an alleged failure to declare taxes in relation to depositary receipts issued to their investors. Four other cases of tax evasion were dismissed sometime in January 2023. Please see the Legal Analysis and News Items sections below in this report for additional details.