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MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines' justice department said on Friday it had found cause to indict online news site Rappler and its top executive for tax evasion.

The justice department said it "found probable cause" to indict Rappler for violation of the country's tax laws after it did not declare gains made in its 2015 tax returns.

Rappler said in a statement the indictment "is a clear form of harassment" and "an attempt to silence reporting that does not please the administration."

The news site's lawyer, Francis Lim, also said the case "has no legal leg to stand on" because Rappler did not evade any tax obligation.

Rappler is a frequent critic of the Philippines' leader, Rodrigo Duterte, questioning the accuracy of his public statements and scrutinising his war on drugs and his foreign policy decisions.

In a resolution last month, but made public only on Friday, a state prosecutor upheld a complaint from the internal revenue agency that Rappler and its top executive, Maria Ressa, had attempted to evade paying taxes by not reporting gains of almost $3 million in its 2015 tax returns.

The justice department's statement said that the state prosecutor had dismissed Ressa's defence that "the non-declaration of such gain was neither intentional nor wilful."

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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Reuters