President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday slammed online news site Rappler for accusing him of harassment after the Securities Exchange Commission revoked its certificate of registration over issues with its Philippine Depositary Receipt.
"We never had a hand [in it]," he said at the inauguration of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines' new communications, navigation, and surveillance/air traffic management systems.
"He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. You’re even trying to, you know, throw garbage at us and then, the least we can do is to explain. How about you? Are you also clean?" Duterte added. He also mentioned the Inquirer after this statement.
The President also pointed out that he only has one SEC appointee.
"How could it be political? You have been throwing trash and sh—, pero pinabayaan kayo... 'Pag may nasilip, sabihin n'yo naman na harassment. 'Pag kami nagmura, masama," he said.
"The issue is not press freedom, but the abuse of the elite and those in power," he added.
Duterte also called Rappler a "fake news outlet" over its report that his special assistant Christopher "Bong" Go allegedly intervened in a P15.5-billion project to acquire two new warships for the Philippine Navy.
"Para sa kaalaman ninyo, you can you’re your suspicious mind from roaming somewhere else. But since you are a fake news outlet then I am not surprised that your articles are also fake," he said.
The SEC had acted on a request by Solicitor General Jose Calida in December 2016 that it investigate Rappler for "any possible contravention of the strict requirements of the 1987 Constitution."
On January 11, the SEC ruled that Rappler violated the constitutional provision against foreign ownership in mass media when it welcomed eBay founder Pierre Omidyar's Omidyar Network as an investor.
The corporate regulator said Rappler also issued derivatives to Washington, D.C.-based investment firm North Base Media in 2015, but the derivatives did not carry the same terms as those of Omidyar's.
"Because Omidyar was the later purchaser... it caused the insertion of certain provisions that assure control over other PDR Holders, and also over the corporate policies of Rappler Inc. and its alter ego Rappler Holdings Corporation," the SEC said.
On Tuesday, Calida said that the Department of Justice will have to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against Rappler for the possible violation of the Anti-Dummy Law, which prohibits foreigners from intervening in the management, operation, administration, or to control nationalized business, whether as officers or employees, with or without compensation.
Rappler has denied that it has violated the Constitution, and announced its intention to contest the SEC's ruling.
Local and international rights groups have hit the SEC's revocation of Rappler's license, with Human Rights Watch calling it "a sinister use of state regulatory processes to stifle critical media voices."
The Foreign Correspondents' Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) expressed concern over the ruling, saying that it was "tantamount to killing" Rappler. — BM/JST, GMA News