Several senators criticized on Monday the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke the certificate of incorporation of Rappler.
In a text message, Senator Risa Hontiveros described the move as “pure harassment” and “Marcosian.”
“The revocation of Rappler's registration is pure harassment and a clear attack on press freedom. It is also Marcosian,” Hontiveros said, referring to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“It's a move straight out of the dictator's playbook. I urge the public and all media practitioners to defend press freedom and the right to speak truth to power,” she added.
In a separate interview, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called the decision “worrisome.”
Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public information, said the SEC decision should not be an attempt to silence media organizations.
“Ano ba ang kanilang naging pagkukulang? Kung meron silang hindi nagawa na required sa lahat ng media outfits o kaya sa mga website na katulad nila, kailangan natin tingnan kung saan sila nagkamali. Basta lang, huwag ito ang paraan na mapatahimik ang sinumang grupo o organisasyon na maghayag,” Poe said.
Senator Richard Gordon, meanwhile, questioned the timing of the SEC decision, six years after Rappler’s registration was approved last January 2012.
He said that while the SEC’s move to enforce the constitutional clause on media ownership is commendable, it must be ready to present convincing proof supporting its decision.
“The SEC should be ready to present convincing and factual evidence to back its ruling on Rappler because the Freedom of the Press is sacrosanct in every democracy. The Freedom of the Press is our insurance that we have a clear and transparent society,” Gordon said.
“The legal actions should proceed with fairness, otherwise it may be construed as an affront to the guaranteed right of freedom of the press. Furthermore, it can trigger a “chilling effect” to all media practitioners to fear government reprisals when criticized,” he added.
Gordon said Rappler should be given a chance to prove the accusation against them is incorrect.
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party (LP), said the former ruling party stands with Rappler.
“Our party leaders are likewise determined to speak out; over the next few days, you will hear more from us, and we ask that you spread the message: We stand with Rappler and all other truth-tellers,” Pangilinan said.
“We stand for freedom -- the very essence of liberalism. We offer a platform where we can come together and determine what we can do to rise to the challenges to our freedoms and our constitutional democracy. We are here,” he added.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, meanwhile, called on media groups to close ranks and fight for press freedom.
"I strongly condemn the SEC's revocation of the registration of Rappler. It is a clear attempt by Duterte to muzzle the few remaining independent media outfits in the country. It would also send a chilling message to other media entities to force them to tow the Administration's propaganda lines," Trillanes said in a statement.
"[The Constitutuon] limits media ownership to Filipinos. Rappler has to [comply]. [It's] about a [constitutional] prohibition. [Can't] be Marcosian," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a text message.
Foreign ownership restrictions
In a decision dated January 11, 2018, posted on its website and emailed to reporters on Monday, the SEC revoked the certificate of Rappler Inc. and Rappler Holdings Corp. for supposedly violating the foreign ownership restrictions in mass media.
the SEC cited the Foreign Equity Restriction of the Philippine Constitution, which states that "(t)he ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens."
According to the SEC, Rappler welcomed Omidyar Network—which the media organization said is "the fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam—as an investor in the online mass media outlet.
"The Foreign Equity Restriction is very clear. Anything less than One Hundred Percent (100 percent) Filipino control is a violation," the SEC decision read.
Rappler said it will contest the decision and exhaust all legal means to do so.
“We intend to not only contest this through all legal processes available to us, but also to fight for our freedom to do journalism and for your right to be heard through an independent platform like Rappler,” it said in a separate statement posted on its website. — RSJ, GMA News