Philippines' Duterte blasts news site Rappler, but denies stifling media

by Antonio Miles January 18, 2018, 13:41
Philippines' Duterte blasts news site Rappler, but denies stifling media

According to Rappler, "the SEC's kill order revoking Rappler's license to operate is the first of its kind in history - both for the Commission and for Philippine media".

The SEC claimed that funds provided by the Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar, constituted foreign ownership.

"Why would the SEC rescind the business license of a truly innovative, viable, and popular media company?"

"As the SEC noted, Rappler breached this constitutional limit when it allowed Omidyar to exercise control over its corporate affairs as provided for in their internal agreement, in exchange for a fund infusion of USD 1 million dollars", Gutierrez said. "Could the judgment of the SEC have been clouded by recklessly inaccurate journalism from jealous know-nothings in the newspaper world?"

"The situation for journalists in Southeast Asia has arguably never been more dire", said Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

He is also the former executive editor of the Washington Post and former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal.

Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, who is tasked to handle the administration's social media affairs, had earlier requested that Rappler be classified as a social media entity.

Cardboard masks of President Rodrigo Duterte and Philippine National Police chief Ronaldo dela Rosa are seen at a stall selling masks and horns ahead of New Year celebrations in Divisoria, Manila, Philippines, December 29, 2017.

The timing, she said, is also suspect, given the context of the President's "direct and personal attacks" against Rappler and other media organizations particularly the Inquirer and ABS-CBN.

"I'd like to think that I'm a Filipino with a global view and a global landscape", she said.

Ressa said Rappler took out the questioned provision in the PDR late past year and informed the SEC.

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As one expert put it, the PDRs "are financial instruments whose value is tied to the price of and dividends from shares in a company that the PDRs reference", but, contrary to the SEC's claim, they "do not grant ownership over these shares".

Despite the Palace's insistence that it had nothing to do with the SEC decision and it along with its apologists would do all it can to persuade the public to believe otherwise, it need not distance itself from this development for the public to know the real score behind Rappler's plight.

In fact, the PDRs have been regularly used by Philippine entrepreneurs to raise much needed capital from overseas without violating strict constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership. The SEC enforces securities and investment laws as well as maintains company registry.

Indeed, the role of media has been very crucial in exposing the human rights abuses committed by state forces under the Duterte administration.

The President, at the inauguration of new air traffic management systems at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines in Pasay City, was entertaining questions from the media when he learned that a reporter from Rappler would asked a question.

"They can still become bloggers, that is clear", he told reporters, while adding Rappler journalists would then have to seek government accreditation as bloggers.

The Constitution requires that control for any Filipino media entity should be 100 percent. "I appeal to the government to realize that we are here to make the country stronger and help make the right decisions". As they do, though, they send signals.

Opposition politicians have also expressed concern.

We admire and respect the people, laws, independence and accomplishments of the Philippines.

Although he denies it, he is believed behind a move to amend the constitution of the Philippines to extend his term in office by shifting to a federal form of government.

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